The Courier-Mail

ALL THE ROUND 26 NRL TEAMS IN YOUR THURSDAY FOOTY FORMGUIDE STARTS PAGE 35 Smith turned his back on Bennett’s Broncos

- EXCLUSIVE PETER BADEL

WAYNE Bennett missed out on Queensland’s greatest hooking talent when Cameron Smith rejected his overtures to instead chase his NRL dreams in Melbourne.

The careers of Bennett and Smith (pictured) will intersect again tonight when the Storm hooker attempts to derail the Broncos’ bid for a minor premiershi­p at Suncorp.

If Bennett had his way, Smith would be a Bronco and leading the club’s quest for a seventh title after the supercoach’s little-known attempt to sign the Logan product in his maiden tenure at Red Hill.

It has been reported Smith only moved to Melbourne because the Broncos had no interest in the teenage rake who would become Queensland and Australian captain.

But The Courier-Mail can reveal Bennett moved to secure the hooker as a 16-yearold when Allan Langer and Kevin Walters entered their twilight years at the Broncos.

Few players have the courage to say no to Bennett but Smith opted to help build the Storm into a powerhouse.

“Cameron was 16 and I went with him to see Wayne at the Broncos for an inter- view,” Smith’s mother Sonia said. “Cameron was spotted playing in Logan and the Broncos rang us saying Wayne was interested.

“Cammy was nervous meeting Wayne. He loved the Broncos as a kid and he was still so young.

“Wayne had a talk to us and then we had a meeting with Melbourne.

“I said, ‘ Son,

it’s your choice’ and it surprised me, but he made the decision to go with Melbourne.’’

Since his arrival in Melbourne in 2002, Smith has become coach Craig Bellamy’s on-field general, amassing 306 NRL games and captaining the Storm to the 2012 premiershi­p.

The Maroons maestro never forgot the Broncos’ interest but credited Bellamy with giving the tough love that has underpinne­d his career.

“The Broncos didn’t see a lot in me until the Storm came along, then they made an offer,” Smith said.

“Although I was a massive fan and wanted to play for them, I saw a better opportunit­y at Melbourne and it’s turned out to be a good decision.

“I was always confident I could make the NRL but I wasn’t working hard enough.

“When Craig Bellamy arrived from the Broncos in 2003, he gave me a rocket about the way I was training. That was the kick up the arse I needed.

“Who knows where I would be today without Craig?”

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Picture: Annette Dew
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