A wedding ‘no show’ is believed is to be at the centre of a bizarre long-running feud between former close mates and NRL teammates Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk.
Speculation about what sparked the bitter split continues three years after relations between the once-tight pair turned sour when Cronk left Melbourne Storm for the Sydney Roosters to be closer to his wife Tara Rushton.
Smith has previously claimed he has no clue why he and Cronk are no longer good friends.
But some former Storm teammates claim the feud was sparked by the shock no-show of Smith and his wife Barb at Cronk’s wedding on Sydney’s northern beaches a few months after the move in late 2017.
Relations soured between Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk (pictured) after Cronk left Melbourne Storm at the end of the 2017 to be closer to wife Tara Rushton (left)
Their former teammates won’t shed any further light than to claim Cronk was angered by the ‘abrupt no-show’, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
The publication added that Cronk and his manager George Mimis are refusing to comment on the ongoing rift.
Speculation is rife Smith may address the ongoing saga in his much-anticipated autobiography which will be released this week.
Both camps have previously repeatedly denied any bad blood between them following Cronk’s move to Sydney at the end of the 2017 season.
Smith’s fractured relationship with Cronk and Storm teammate Billy Slater became public in 2018 when it was reported his wife Barb had a falling out with Slater’s wife, Nicole.
The reported rift was sparked by the ‘abrupt’ no show of Cameron Smith and his wife Barb (pictured together) at Cronk’s wedding in Sydney
Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith (pictured after the Storm’s grand final win in 2017) were once close mates but relations became strained after Cronk left the club
Their fractured friendship was seemingly laid bare for everyone to see when Cronk took on his old club in Roosters colours for the first time in mid 2018.
He warmly embraced all of his former teammates but offered only a brief handshake and minimal eye contact with Smith following the match.
Tensions spilled over on the field a few months later in the grand final when Cronk famously placed a chokehold around Smith’s neck after taking exception crunching tackle.
The former best mates then avoided each other after the match with reports Cronk abruptly changed direction to avoid coming face to face with his former captain.
Adding fuel to the fire, the pair both snubbed each other in post-match interviews and speeches.
Tensions escalated a year later in the 2018 NRL Grand Final when Cronk famously placed a chokehold around Smith’s neck (pictured) after taking exception crunching tackle
Cronk snubbed Smith again when he thanked his former club and singled out several of his former teammates who played their last NRL game.
There also reports he hugged every Storm player after the game, except Smith.
Smith also made no mention of Cronk in his runner-up speech, despite singling out several Roosters players.
Cronk later claimed there may be been bad blood but not from his end, claiming his relationship with Smith was ‘fine’.
‘There may have been (bad blood). But not from my end of the bargain. That kick pressure could’ve been anyone, I’ve got a broken shoulder and I knew in that game they were coming for me… If it had been Cameron Munster, I’d have done exactly the same thing,’ Cronk told Fox Footy’s NRL 360 in 2019.
‘There’s conversations that happened. Our relationship is fine. I can only speak from my point of view… If we ever caught up there would be no hostilities between us.
Speculation continues about Cooper Cronk’s ongoing rift with former teammate Cameron Smith. Cronk is pictured with wife Tara Rushton
Cameron Smith and Cooper Smith share a tense embrace after the 2019 preliminary final
Around the same time, Smith appeared to have extended the olive branch when he publicly congratulated Cronk after announcing he would retire at the end of the 2019 season.
But tensions arose again after Cronk’s management claimed he didn’t receive an invite to a dinner celebrating Smith 400th first grade game.
The pair shook hands and shared a tense embrace after the Roosters defeated Storm in the preliminary final later season.
The awkward exchange didn’t go unnoticed by sports commentators at the time.
Cooper Cronk retired at the end of the 2019 season. He’s pictured with wife Tara after the 2019 grand final win- his last NRL game
Cameron Smith drops huge hint his NRL career is over and reveals the surprising reason why he could hang up his boots – after he and glamorous TV presenter finally addressed rumours they had an affair
Footy legend Cameron Smith has dropped his biggest hint over his retirement after months of speculation around whether he will pull on the Melbourne Storm jersey in 2021.
Smith has revealed the surprising reason he may call an end to his playing career on a premiership winning 2020 season as part of the launch of his autobiography; The Storm Within.
In his book, the 37-year-old claimed he would be willing to step aside for Melbourne’s new batch of talent.
He said he told coach Craig Bellamy mid-way through the year there would be ‘no way’ he would sign on for 2021 if that resulted in young guns Harry Grant or Brandon Smith losing their spot.
Footy legend Cameron Smith has dropped his biggest hint he will retire after months of speculation (pictured with wife Barbara)
Yvonne Sampson (pictured) spoke out about the rumours of an affair with cameron Smith on Friday, saying there was no truth behind them
All three players are vying for the number 9 hooker jersey, making it very hard for the club to justify keeping all three next season if the older Smith wants to play on.
The club has previously said it could work around keeping the three on board but Smith is not convinced, he revealed.
‘They had recruited two great young hookers of the future. What none of us probably imagined was that the old bloke ahead of them would still be playing when he was 37,’ Smith writes in his book.
He also explains why he hasn’t yet made a definite call on his retirement – saying he ‘felt better than ever’ and looked forward to training and hitting the gym with the younger guys.
He said he made a decision that he would concentrate on the task at hand – playing great footy in 2020 – and cross that bridge when it arrived.
Brandon Smith (pictured right) is one of Melbourne’s young stars who the club signed for the number 9 hooker position
Harry Grant (pictured right) is one of Melbourne Storms new signing vying for the number 9 jersey
In another revealing insight, Smith said the anger he still holds over the Storm’s treatment in the salary cap scandal is directed at former NRL chief David Gallop.
Melbourne were stripped of two premiership titles and numerous minor premierships after officials discovered the club had been fraudulently paying star players to the tune of $3.78million.
Smith said Gallop, in imposing the sanctions, which also included a massive $1.6million fine, acted too quickly and gave the false impression the players had some knowledge of the cooked financial books.
In the years since the 2010 scandal, Conulla, Parramatta and Manly have had salary cap breaches which Smith said were all handled much more fairly.
Smith’s autobiography also addresses whispers circulating through league circles and social media since 2017 of an affair with Fox League’s Yvonne Sampson.
Smith spoke out on Friday to quash baseless rumours.
Ms Sampson herself also spoke out about the rumours, saying there was no truth behind them.
‘My husband and I were made aware of these absurd and baseless rumours when they surfaced three years ago. They are utterly false. This malicious gossip has no bearing on my life, career as a journalist or love of rugby league,’ the 40-year-old told the Courier Mail.
The former Storm and Australian skipper revealed when he was first informed of the gossip being spread on social media, he was so surprised he burst out laughing.
But Smith, who has been married to his wife Barbara for almost ten years, then quickly realised the gravity of situation.
‘It was just cruel … rumours that were completely untrue. When I told Barb she was shattered. It floored her,’ Smith told QWeekend.
Cameron Smith is pictured with his wife Barbara as he leaves the field after becoming the first player to reach 400 matches
Former Queensland Maroons captain Cameron Smith (right) stands with his family ahead of Game 3 of the 2018 State of Origin series between the NSW Blues and the Queensland Maroons at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane
While he felt he could handle the gossip, his concern was for both his wife and Ms Sampson – a former Wide World of Sports presenter.
‘Honestly, if I was going to have an affair – which I never would – why would I do it with someone with a profile as big as hers? And in my own sport?’
Smith revealed his wife and Ms Sampson exchanged text messages in the aftermath of the rumours – checking on each other’s welfare.
The idea of publicly quashing the gossip on a scheduled appearance by Smith on Fox Sport’s League Life in 2018 was also brought up but in the end Smith decided it would be better not to fan the flames.
Also revealed in the book is Smith’s anger that he and his wife were portrayed as ‘greedy’ for accepting a diamond ring worth $15,000 from the NRL for his 400th game.
Smith (pictured centre) celebrates with fellow Melbourne Storm teammates after winning the 2020 Grand Final in October
The gift received criticism online from footy fans who questioned why Smith’s wife had received the expensive gift and the backlash almost pushed him to retire then and there.
‘Why did you buy Cameron Smith’s wife a ring? Is it because he runs the game?’ one person wrote to the NRL’s Twitter account after the 2019 presentation.
‘Instead of buying Cameron Smith’s wife a $15,000 diamond ring, (Todd) Greenberg could send 10 TVs over to Papua New Guinea and footballs for the PNG kids to kick around!’ wrote another.
The Storm star was quick to hit back saying his wife had no knowledge of the gift until it was presented to her and she should not be targeted.
‘Criticism is part of the game. I signed up to be an NRL player. To bring in personal attacks and family, that’s not on. I’m not just saying that about myself. That’s any athlete’s family. I just think that’s off-limits,’ Smith said.
Todd Greenberg, the then chief executive of the NRL, defended the present to Mrs Smith, saying the wives of rugby stars play a vital supporting role for players.