Questions over Cam as Kangaroos captain

Joe Frost Editor

By Joe Frost, Joe Frost is a Roar Editor

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    After being named Kangaroos captain in 2002, Andrew Johns was asked what he would change about himself as the leader of his national team, to which he responded something along the lines of: “I’ll be shaving a little more frequently.”

    Kangaroos captaincy hopeful Cam Smith looked to have followed Joey’s advice when Australia rolled England at Elland Road last Saturday night.

    The man with the most distinctive stubble in the game apparently decided to make his final audition for the captaincy of the Kangaroos also a dress rehearsal by picking up his Gillette. Although, there’s a possibility he was just doing the right thing by the tournament sponsor.

    However, a clean chin does not make a clean skin.

    There are a number of questions hovering over Smith that means the issue of his ascendancy to the captaincy of the Kangaroos isn’t as clean-cut as it, and he, appears.

    The first is his consistent view that he is entitled to more money.

    When the NRL partnership recently agreed to increase the clubs’ funding by $500,000 next season, Smith was quick to weigh in on where some of that money should go.

    “The clubs are asking for more money but they haven’t mentioned anything about paying players more money. All they have asked at the moment is for more money for them.”

    He went on to draw comparisons between the NRL and the NBA, where presently the game is being held to ransom by the players insisting they deserve a larger slice of the pie.

    “It is pretty extreme, the whole lockout stuff. I would like to think our game would never go to those lengths.”

    He would like to think. Of course it wouldn’t be the first time Smith has made a threat of this type by not making it, saying in May of 2010, “I’m not sure whether striking is the right thing to do because at the end of the day striking hurts the game and the fans.

    “But if that’s going to help the players and help keep players in the game, then maybe that’s something we need to look at.

    “I’m not saying we will do it, but it’s an option that is there for us.”

    Obviously Smith is not the only player in the game complaining about a lack of appropriate financial compensation. But if every player from the Under 20’s up were to have a strike – think occupy Wall St-style here – then Smith would certainly not be one of the 99% who are underpaid.

    Meanwhile a bloke like Petero Civoniceva also makes calls for more money. But he is quick to qualify that rugby league has “been everything, and I want to give back”.

    So where does Petero stand on player payments?

    “We need to even out payments. That’s why it’s harmful when an elite player talks about increasing rep payments.

    “That’s not considering young fellas who have to balance work, study and football while on a lower wage.”

    Of course Cameron Smith was never one to make too much noise about player payments prior to April 2010, when his team the Melbourne Storm were taken to task by the NRL for cheating the salary cap over four years – an action that was in part exposed by Smith’s deal with Fox Sports.

    And though Smith was cleared of any wrong-doing by the official investigation, he and his agent refused to cooperate with said investigation.

    This isn’t to suggest Smith is necessarily guilty of anything but when Storm coach Craig Bellamy gave up his work and home computers and participated in full with the investigation to clear his own name, Smith refusing to so much as talk to the investigators cast him in a light so dim it gave his newly-smooth face back its five o’clock shadow.

    But perhaps the main reason a question rests over Smith’s head is that he is a suspect player on the field.

    No one can question his work ethic, talent, skills or attitude.

    But one can question the spirit in which he plays the game.

    Though a player such as Richie McCaw is often accused of playing his sport on the edge of its laws, the laws McCaw flirts with are to do with playing the ball. Smith, on the other hand, lives on the razor’s edge of laws concerned with player safety.

    His club is the most notorious in the game for wrestling techniques in their tackling. Indeed, Smith himself missed the 2008 Grand Final after receiving a two week suspension for a grapple tackle on Brisbane’s Sam Thaiday.

    This would have only been one week – and meant just missing that year’s preliminary final – if Smith did not have carry-over points for another grapple tackle in round 1 of that season.

    Whilst he has since maintained a clean record at the judiciary, he was also an integral part in one of the ugliest (or best, depending on your point of view) scenes in recent Origin memory.

    In the final minutes of Game 3 2009 the game had become little more than a brawl on a field. So it was interesting to see what the respective leaders of their states thought was appropriate reaction to the game’s descent.

    After being awarded a penalty in the game’s final minute QLD vice-captain Smith put up the bomb which Anthony Watmough later described as an “up-and-under for an all-in”.

    NSW captain Kurt Gidley took the bomb and fearlessly ran into a wall of Maroon defenders baying for blood.

    The comparison between sport and war, framed by the question “who would you rather be standing next to in the trenches” is as flawed as it is disrespectful. So the simple question to be asked is who showed greater leadership qualities – Kurt or Cam?

    And that is the question to be asked of Smith – will he show sufficient leadership qualities to be the captain of the greatest rugby league team and nation in the world?

    Will he show Petero’s selflessness and look out for the underdog? Follow Craig Bellamy’s integrity and set the correct example for his fellow players? And will he have Kurt’s courage and be the man to take the hit instead of dish it out?

    Or will he just continue to shave a little more frequently?

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    The Crowd Says (18)

    • November 24th 2011 @ 9:01am
      Jimbo Jones said | November 24th 2011 @ 9:01am | ! Report

      Great article mate – I feel that Cameron Smith should not be the Kangaroos captain for all the reasons listed in your article, but the main one that sticks out is the spirit he plays the game in. Keep him in the team, but have the captain as a player who plays hard, but fair and in the spirit of the game. Luke Lewis wouldnt be out of place, but I he probably needs a few more runs as captain before taking this on for the Kangaroos. Who would you have as captain instead?

    • November 24th 2011 @ 9:10am
      Brian said | November 24th 2011 @ 9:10am | ! Report

      Agree with this. Smith is a grub of the highest order. Lockyer was the captain in that origin game so he is not without blame either. Actually the footage shows Lockyer giving the instryction to put it up.

    • November 24th 2011 @ 10:29am
      stormybill said | November 24th 2011 @ 10:29am | ! Report

      What an absolute piece of crap this article is !Cam Smith is head and shoulders above any one else for the captaincy.He is reguarly lauded by ex greats of the game for his intelligent reading and playing nous.Say what you like about the Storm fiasco but the man has been cleared by anyone who cared to look into it.This article sounds like sour grapes from a disheartend nsw supporter.

    • November 24th 2011 @ 10:48am
      Australian Rules said | November 24th 2011 @ 10:48am | ! Report

      In terms of the next Roos captain, it’s Cam Smith…then daylight…then some more daylight…then the next bloke. In fact there’s so much daylight that the next bloke might as well be living in Sweden in the height of summer.

      No other player has the leadership, the on-field direction or the performance consistency that Smith produces at every level. And when Cam is asked at press conferences what he thinks about particular issues, he should and does, speak his mind freely.

      Personally I don’t really understand the full extent of Petero’s views. Surely the top players (those representing State and Country consistently) should be the highest paid players in the game. Yes, all player payments need to increase to keep the sport competitive, but show me a bloke who doesn’t want more money in his job…esp when that job involves putting your body and mind on the line week in week out.

      This article is surely just muck-raking.

    • November 24th 2011 @ 11:48am
      Bradw71 said | November 24th 2011 @ 11:48am | ! Report

      I find it funny how people forget the reason the “all in brawl on a field” was started was because of the grub act of Trent Waterhouse king hitting Steve Price from a blind spot when he wasn’t even in the fight then another player pick him up by the jersey and drop him to the ground. I don’t know about you, but when someone does a dog act to my mates I stick up for them and get pay back for them. I don’t disagree with what you are saying about about Luke Lewis. He is well respected by his peers but if you have a look at most of the past captains they tend to have more out going personalities. He is a great player and a real endorsement to the great game but a I don’t believe the right man to captain Australia. All these things you’ve mentioned are in the past and punishment has been served. You can’t tell me that Craig Bellamy didnt know about the dodgy books if Cameron Smith had supposedly known about them. But if you want to make a scape goat out of him, go for it. Maybe you want to go back to pre 1980 where not many north of the border were considered for the side little lone the captaincy. Case of tall poppy syndrome????

    • Roar Guru

      November 24th 2011 @ 1:07pm
      Hoy said | November 24th 2011 @ 1:07pm | ! Report

      Luke Lewis has not been a walk up start over the last several years has he? Cam Smith has lead his state, leads his club, and leads the play.

      In your quotes of Smith, nowhere does he say he wants more money, just the players. The only difference is that Petero is a known gentleman, and his main concern was rightly those at the lower end. So the clubs increase the cap. It won’t be spent at the lower end, I can assure you of that. It will go to the top players, and rightly Petero brought to the fore this issue. But you have selected quotes from Smith and villifed him on those quotes, when they are not stating anything really villainous.

      Prior to 2010, noone was talking about the upcoming increase to the TV rights. When that came up, they asked all and sundry about their thoughts on the increase salary cap debate. He was cleared of any wrong doing. Perhaps he took a passive aggressive role in not cooperating to highligh his thoughts on the salary cap issues? Fact is, you don’t know. It mightn’t look good, but you don’t know the back door goings on.

      Finally, in regards to the choker tackle… It was legal for them to wrestle, it was made illegal for this tackle. Fine. He did one at the start of the year. Got penalised for it. He makes what? 40 tackles a game? Over 22 regular games for the year? That is around 880 tackles in a year, and two were chokers? And he was penalised for them, and this is why he shouldn’t be the national captain?

      If you are pushing Luke Lewis, or even Kurt Gidley as national captain, there is an odd agenda to this article.

      • November 25th 2011 @ 11:30am
        Jimbo Jones said | November 25th 2011 @ 11:30am | ! Report

        Mate ceriseblood wasnt pushing for Luke Lewis, I was – and that was only because I couldnt really see any other candidates amongst the team.. Gallen stands out, but his past means he probably shouldnt be captain

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