Wrestle mania: Smith claims Bennett brought in specialist
Bennett and Smith.
CAMERON Smith has taken aim at Wayne Bennett for attacking the Melbourne Storm’s wrestling tactics despite hiring a wrestling coach himself.
In his autobiography The Storm Within, which will be released today, the Melbourne, Queensland and Australian great claims every club in the NRL has had a wrestling coach for as long as he could remember yet the Storm were singled out as the main culprits.
He said in 2008 the complaints “became ridiculous’’ and he spotlighted a quote from Bennett after the Storm beat the Broncos at Olympic Park that year.
“The game’s rugby league,’’ Bennett said. “You tackle people, you don’t wrestle.’’
Smith counterclaimed with: “When I played State of Origin in Queensland in 2003, we had wrestling coaches there — and Wayne Bennett, one of the greatest so-called opponents of the wrestle, was our coach. The wrestling coach was Chris Haseman, who had been working with the Broncos since 1998.’’
Smith claims accusations the Storm pioneered the hiring of wrestling coaches can be challenged by the fact that in Manly’s 1996 annual report they acknowledge they had a wrestling coach — Norm Steel.
“We watched and played a lot of rugby league in 2008 and I can say every team was doing what we were doing. What they probably didn’t like was that we just did it better and more effectively.”
“If anything, the criticism we received was a compliment. There was a difference between dirty play that hurts an opponent and slowing down the ruck. Craig wanted our defence to evolve so we wouldn’t just tackle someone and lay over them.
“We were looking at ways to move players onto their back, or other positions, to allow our defence more time to get set. It’s ground work every team does.’’
Smith confirmed a story that the Storm’s wrestling coach, jujitsu instructor John Donahue, put former Storm player Brett O’Farrell to sleep in a “sleeper’’ hold during the 2004 preseason.