What Cameron Smith didn’t say
CAMERON Smith and his Melbourne Storm troops endured a nightmare 80 minutes as the Sydney Roosters proved unstoppable in the NRL Grand Final.
It marks the fourth grand final loss for Smith in his incredible career and while it wasn't as bad on paper as a 40-0 defeat against Manly in 2008, that won't make the Storm feel any better today.
As the loss sunk in for Smith and his troops, fellow teammate Cooper Cronk soaked up the win with his Roosters pals.
Cronk left the Storm following the 2017 season and reports quickly began to filter through of a fractured relationship between the team's big three (Cronk, Smith and Billy Slater).
The feud appeared to reach breaking point during the 2018 season when Cronk and Smith shared an ice-cold handshake after a tense battle between the sides in Adelaide in round 16.
The former Storm star hugged all of his fellow teammates before reaching Smith and the tension appeared palpable.
On Sunday night another chapter was added to the bitter feud after the final siren sounded at ANZ Stadium as Cronk brushed Smith once again.
The duo tangled on several occasions during the game with Smith flooring Cronk early in the first half in what appeared to be an attempt to test out his injured shoulder.
Smith lined up Cronk and took him to the ground in a blatant attempt to test his former sidekick's durability.
The hit from Smith didn't sit well with Cronk who retaliated by getting on top of his former captain and grabbing him around the throat.
In his first interview on the field, Smith commented on Cronk's lack of involvement in the game.
"He did a really good job to hide tonight," he said. "He was switching sides and getting on the wing and into defensive positions where we couldn't really get to him, and if we did get to him, he'd have a lot of help from the inside.
"That's just the way it goes. He's an experienced player. He's played over 300 matches, so he knows where to put himself not to be in the action."
But Smith drove in the real dagger when he stood on the podium after enduring the painful grand final defeat.
Smith acknowledged the pain of defeat before tipping his hat to the dominant display put forth by the Roosters, but there was something missing.
"It's obviously a disappointing match for us to leave for the last one of the season. Sometimes you have to take your hat off to the opposition when they play too well and the Roosters were that tonight," Smith said.
"They played a fantastic game. Right from the opening whistle they knew exactly what they needed to do tonight and they executed perfectly.
"Congratulations to the Roosters, finishing minor premiers and NRL premiers, that's a great effort.
"To Jake (Friend) and Trent (Robinson) and the rest of the Roosters squad and particularly Luke Keary, you were fantastic tonight, well done.
"I think our entire organisation, all of our sponsors, to everyone who helped get us on the field every week, all of our coaches and support staff and medical staff, you do a lot of
work to get us ready every game. You've done a great job this year. Thanks so much for the hard work you put in.
"To the rest of our team, boys, congratulations on a great year. Unfortunately we came up against good opposition tonight and fell short. We'll be back next year.
"A special mention to a couple of my good mates, Billy Slater and Ryan Hoffman. Boys, you both had fantastic careers.
"You've delighted so many people in the stands with what you have done on the field. And you've certainly made a lot of people proud at our football club.
"Enjoy your retirement from footy and good luck in what you do next.
"And lastly, to everyone who came out tonight, it was a great crowd and a wonderful atmosphere. And to everyone who has been to every game, thanks for a much and keep supporting the NRL and hopefully we will see you next year. Thank you."
Smith never mentioned his former teammate of 14-seasons, a player he not only played with at the Storm but also in State of Origin and Australian sides.
After thanking a host of others along with his "good mates", Smith's omission of Cronk didn't go unnoticed.
In an even more brutal turn of events, Cronk delivered a cold-hearted return of serve when speaking to Channel 9's Brad Fittler after the game.
Cronk spent several moments talking about the incredible feat of claiming the victory before turning his attention to his former club.
"While I've got this moment, I probably have to thank Melbourne Storm for everything they've done for me. In particular, Billy Slater and Ryan Hoffman who have made me a better player and a better person," Cronk said.
"It's hard for me to put into words what tonight was, on one side is a club that provided me with everything, the Melbourne Storm, and the other club, the Roosters provided me with a chance to start a family and play the game I love."
Once again, the omission of his former captain Smith was glaring. Think it's safe to say the bridge between Smith and Cronk has been well and truly burned.