Channel 9 commentator Peter Sterling has been forced to sheepishly concede he was wrong to question Cameron Smith’s capabilities.
Channel 9 commentator Peter Sterling has been forced to sheepishly concede he was wrong to question Cameron Smith’s capabilities.

‘I was wrong’: Nine star eats humble pie

Rugby league legend Peter Sterling has sheepishly backflipped on his assertion Melbourne Storm captain Smith is no longer the best hooker in the NRL.

Following the Storm's Round 3 loss to the Canberra Raiders in Melbourne, long-time Channel 9 commentator Sterling boldly claimed Smith had been dethroned.

Coach Craig Bellamy admitted he was "embarrassed" by the Storm's hapless performance, during which the Raiders were awarded countless set restarts.

Kayo is your ticket to the 2020 NRL Telstra Premiership. Every game of every round Live & On-Demand with no-ad breaks during play. New to Kayo? Get your 14-day free trial & start streaming instantly >

Following the coronavirus lockdown, there were lingering concerns the newly introduced "six again" rule change would not suit the Queenslander's style of play.

And after Raiders co-captain Josh Hodgson combined superbly with playmaker George Williams during the 22-6 victory in late May, it spurred Parramatta Eels icon Sterling to make a bold proclamation.

"I don't think there is a better No.9 in the game than Josh Hodgson," Sterling told Wide World of Sports.

"I think he's just about eclipsed Cameron Smith as the best No.9 in the game. That's based on the second half of last year and what I've seen in the first three games of this year.

"I think it's undeniable, the claims."

Cameron Smith has played 416 games for the Melbourne Storm since his NRL debut in 2002.
Cameron Smith has played 416 games for the Melbourne Storm since his NRL debut in 2002.

Kayo is your ticket to the 2020 NRL Telstra Premiership. Every game of every round Live & On-Demand with no-ad breaks during play. New to Kayo? Get your 14-day free trial & start streaming instantly >

But since Sterling made those remarks, Smith has eradicated any doubt he's the NRL's premier hooker.

During the Storm's 26-16 win over the Newcastle Knights at Central Coast Stadium on Saturday, Smith managed two try assists, two line-break assists and made 42 tackles in a masterful performance.

Sterling was forced on Tuesday to concede he had made an error.

"The headline this week is 'I was wrong', and in brackets I want 'premature'," Sterling said on Wide World of Sports.

"A couple of weeks ago, I said Cameron Smith may have been eclipsed by Josh Hodgson, and I thought that because I thought that the new tempo in the game might not suit Cameron Smith and, or, the Melbourne Storm.

"In the past two weeks, he's been superb.

"Josh Hodgson is absolutely nipping at his heels, but Smith answered in kind to show that his mastery is still there."

 

Like a fine whiskey, Smith seems to get better with age. The NRL veteran identifies scoring opportunities better than any of his rivals, and has seamlessly adjusted to the newer, fast-paced game after the season suspension.

"Cameron Smith, he basically ran the show," Sterling said of Saturday's encounter on the Central Coast.

"He throws more one-pass (assists) for tries than anybody else in the game.

"He reads plays so well.

"The tempo of the game … Melbourne are coming to terms with that, so too Cameron Smith."

Smith turns 37 on Thursday and his contract with Melbourne expires at the end of the year. Despite the stellar run of form, questions are mounting about what his plans are beyond the 2020 season.

Cronulla Sharks great Paul Gallen believes Smith should indicate to the Storm what he foresees in his playing future.

The Queensland legend - whose contract is reportedly worth just under $1 million - soaks up a large portion of the club's salary cap, and Melbourne will need to plan a replacement if 2020 proves to be his final season in the NRL.

The Melbourne Storm are third on the 2020 NRL ladder.
The Melbourne Storm are third on the 2020 NRL ladder.

"The rumour is he's on around $1 million. That's huge money. That's a marquee player payment," Gallen said on Channel 9's 100% Footy.

"Without a doubt Cameron Smith is a marquee player, he's a terrific player, but he's also 37.

"There's going to come a time where you may have to take a little bit less money. I suppose the question is, is Cameron willing to do that?

"Is he willing to take $500,000 or $750,000 to play again? When you talk about ability and what Cameron Smith can do on the field and what he means to a club off the field, he can keep playing without a doubt and he means so much to the Storm.

"He could do it for another season without a doubt.

"The question's going to be, can he handle earning less money, which I think he may have to do moving forward."

The Storm are in third spot on the NRL ladder after recording four wins in the opening five rounds. They will take on the Penrith Panthers at Campbelltown Stadium on Friday.

 

Originally published as 'I was wrong': Nine star eats humble pie

News Corp Australia


Sustainable focus: Childcare to help Bundy kids grow

Premium Content Sustainable focus: Childcare to help Bundy kids grow

“I’ve been working in the childcare industry for 30 years and I have honestly never...

Best photos from Day 1 of North Aus Surf Lifesaving Champs

Premium Content Best photos from Day 1 of North Aus Surf Lifesaving Champs

More than 400 competitors made a splash at the Mackay Aquatic and Recreational...

Bundaberg preacher faces court over quarantine escape

Premium Content Bundaberg preacher faces court over quarantine escape

A preacher fled hotel quarantine through a fire escape