NRL supports McKinnon and Smith
The NRL has come out in strong support of Cameron Smith in the wake of criticisms that were aired over his actions during the Alex McKinnon incident last year.
NRL CEO Dave Smith was unwavering in his support of the Australian, Queensland and Melbourne Storm captain.
"The whole of rugby league regrets what happened that fateful night, it is a tragedy," Smith said.
"Alex is an inspiring man and we continue to support him but Cam Smith is an absolute icon of our game. He is a great leader in the game and people should be under no disillusion that we see him as the strongest possible character and just a wonderful role model.
"He has done so much for people, far and beyond the call of duty, and he always has so we want people to understand that is where he sits in this game and that is where he will always sit in this game. He is the captain of the Kangaroos and he is a great leader.”
In a series of newspapers interviews, the NRL made it clear it is not taking sides in the matter and wants to make sure both McKinnon and Smith get the support they need.
The NRL CEO was with Smith at the funeral of Sunshine Coast footballer James Ackerman, and witnessed firsthand how much it affected him.
"He was with me at the James Ackerman funeral and I saw how that affected him so he really is someone who cares and does everything and goes beyond the call of duty for those less advantaged than him and people should know that," Smith said.
"That is not to get in the middle of this situation but at the same time Cam is a thoroughly decent fellow and we are very lucky to have him in the game.
"Alex McKinnon is dear to my heart personally and dear to the game's heart, and we will always support Alex. There is no dramas about that, we will continue to do that. That was a tragedy and we all regret it, everybody in rugby league would want to take back what happened that night. None of us wanted that to happen and that includes Cam.
"We hold Cam in high regard and we want people to know how we feel. I can tell you that is at the commission level too and the whole way through the game.”
Smith will play his 300th NRL game next week when the Storm host the Panthers in Round 19 and NRL head of football Todd Greenberg said the game will celebrate the milestone and Smith who has represented the game with distinction since making his debut in 2002.
"Next week we will be celebrating with Cameron a 300 game milestone and both Dave and I want to reflect today and publicly that he is extremely highly regarded across the whole game," Greenberg said.
"He does some amazing things for rugby league and we want people to know that."