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The character assassination of the Australian captain

The Storm's greatest ever. (AAP Image/Action Photographics, Ian Knight)
Roar Pro
6th July, 2015
33
1485 Reads

I don’t know Cameron Smith. In all likelihood, most of you reading this don’t either. We know a media persona, a version of the man. An element of his personality.

The element I’ve seen for the last decade is tenacious, hard-working, fiercely combative, aggressive even. He seems to also be a good leader of men.

Yet for some reason Channel Nine have decided to publicly assassinate the character and integrity of Cameron Smith during what was a very moving piece covering Alex McKinnon on Sunday night’s 60 Minutes.

There’s no doubt that this is a delicate situation. What happened to McKinnon was horrific. No one is denying that for one second. The tackle was illegal in the laws of the game, and the punishment has been done and dusted.

The rugby league community also banded together through the ‘Rise for Alex’ movement, which has been an unbelievable positive for the sport in general.

Few could even remotely imagine what McKinnon and his close friends and family have gone through. Further, I don’t believe anyone would begrudge McKinnon in wanting compensation and financial security for his future. I don’t think anyone would really have an issue with him being angry either.

What I do have a massive issue with though is the way that Channel Nine and Liz Hayes, the reporter, used McKinnon’s vulnerability to tarnish the good name of Cameron Smith and the Melbourne Storm in general.

A production decision seemed to have been made to show the footage of the tackle for the first time – yes, the first time – to McKinnon for the purposes of the story, while making particular focus on Smith’s actions in the heat of battle.

Not once was Smith or anyone from the Storm given a chance to defend themselves. This is disgraceful. They aimed to use a short grab from legendary coach Wayne Bennett to provide a different slant on Smith’s character.

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Would Smith have changed his on-field behaviour if he had his time over again? Maybe. Maybe not. That’s not really the point though.

This is no longer the inspiring love story of McKinnon and his partner. I would hate to think that Channel Nine and 60 Minutes would be the cause of the general public turning on McKinnon for this anger towards Smith. In the worst case scenario, if you’re a one-eyed Queensland supporter, this might not be a bridge too far to imagine.

Remember, this is the captain of Melbourne Storm, Queensland and Australia. I don’t recall a time (please correct me if I’m wrong) prior to this incident, where his character has been brought into question in any real way. Indeed, many, many people in the rugby league family speak exceedingly highly of Smith’s nature.

To not even offer him the chance to defend himself is totally unfair.

I’m not a television producer clearly, but I have a fundamental problem with the way the 60 minutes story was put together, not to mention the story’s timing. Given the explosive nature of McKinnon’s words – be they correct or not – wouldn’t you think that the Sunday before Origin 3 might not be the best timing?

More to the point, wouldn’t you think Channel Nine, the host broadcaster of State of Origin, might’ve viewed this as to hold off on until the conclusion of the series? If media reports are to be believed, Smith is so incensed with his treatment he will refuse any media requests from Nine in the lead up to, during, or after the Origin decider.

Are we going to have a ridiculous situation where a vice-captain lifts the trophy should Queensland win? I’d like to think not, but if it does eventuate, Channel Nine have no one to blame but themselves.

As Wayne Bennett proved yet again during this story, there is more than meets the eye with anyone that is in the public spotlight. Not for one second am I suggesting that Cameron Smith is an angel and absolved of his behaviour – I don’t know the guy – but I am extremely disappointed at the portrait painted by Channel Nine in this instance. They have a lot to answer for.

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