We called Slaterâs agent, George Mimis, about it, but he point blank refused to discuss it. Smithâs manger, Isaac Moses, has not returned calls we made to him last year so there is no point in discussing the matter with him, or trying to tell Smith we were raising it publicly.
You have to wonder whether Smith is as tight as he was with other teammates, too. When Smith announced a few weeks ago that he would retire from representative football, Greg Inglis asked me if it was true because Smith didnât tell him he was going to quit.
Inglis couldnât believe his ears. Keep in mind, this was the Queensland captain-in-waiting finding out the news from a journo.
Smithâs behaviour in recent times has surprised a lot of people. The most obvious example was his decision to quit rep football just weeks out from the start of the Origin series.
The timing has left plenty in the game baffled and while everyone in the media will chat about it, they wonât dare bring it up or ask out loud about it because Smith is a such an influential and respected figure in the game.
Smith has ample media outlets to respond and explain if he wants. But the idea of him not wanting to beat the Blues one last time and have a farewell series, finishing at Suncorp Stadium, is mind boggling.
When you look at Slater and how he has handled his exit from the rep scene, you canât help but think that Smith could have learnt from that.
Slater would never ask for a series of performances to be dedicated to him â or even to consider himself worthy of a âdo it for Billyâ campaign â but Slaterâs presence, and the desire to send him out a winner, are huge bonuses for the Queenslanders.
Smithâs exit, on the other hand, is seen by many to be about Smith and not his team or the state he has served with such aplomb for so many years.
Can Simmons break the Kardashian curse as easily as NBA records?
Sports fans nationwide shuddered during the week at news Australiaâs latest superstar, Ben Simmons, was involved with a Kardashian. I am anything but a Kardashian expert, but it doesnât take much digging to find out how frequently athletes are drawn into the Kardashian web and the subsequent downfall in their careers.
Simmons is likely to be named the NBAâs rookie of the year, so footage this week of him arriving at a Hollywood hotel at 2am with Kendall Jenner (Jenner is the half-sister to reality television celebrities Kourtney, Kim, Khloe and Rob Kardashian through mother Kris Jenner) had Philadelphia 76ers fans concerned.
Those with his NBA career at heart would much prefer Simmons be recuperating from a taxing season.
History suggests Simmons could indeed be dancing with the devil. In 2009, Lamar Odom was a championship-winning NBA player with the LA Lakers when he married Khloe Kardashian.
Five years on, Odomâs career was over, his marriage was on the rocks and he was fighting for life, unconscious, inside a Nevada brothel.
In 2011, Kris Humphries, playing for Brooklyn, was averaging a career-high 13.8 points before marrying Kim Kardashian … for 72 days. A short marriage, but it seems a life-long hex. His career stats have plummeted.
Which brings us to Tristan Thompson. Playing for LeBron Jamesâ Cleveland, Thompson had it all. He then started seeing Khloe and his performance suffered so greatly that his coach rarely used him in games.
Khloe fell pregnant, but two days before giving birth, rumours of infidelity surfaced. Thompson became Americaâs most hated man and is being booed from stadium to stadium around the country. Even his home fans booed him!
Simmons isnât Jennerâs first NBA superstar. She dated former slam-dunk champ Blake Griffin, who was once as big a name as any in the league, playing for the LA Clippers. Multiple injuries have plagued his career and heâs now toiling away, out of the spotlight, with the struggling Detroit Pistons.
So we wish Simmons well, and hope he can break the Kardashian curse as effortlessly as NBA records.
Mitchell clanâs marathon trek
Latrell Mitchellâs family will be at the MCG on Wednesday to watch him make his State of Origin debut but, like much of their sonâs rise to the top, it wonât be an easy journey.
âWe are driving down,â Latrellâs dad, Matthew, said. âIâm a bigger bloke and I donât like squeezing into a plane seat … so we are going to hit the road and enjoy it.â
Matthew and his wife, Patricia, have dedicated their lives to their children and they get their payback from watching Latrell in action. But Matthew has revealed the payback may be more significant.
âWe did it hard there for a while … Iâm the only one working because mum did her back, so Iâm the only bread winner and we struggle,ââ he said. ââWe donât like to ask Latrell for anything, [but] … whenever he can he does help out. His ultimate goal is to buy mum and dad a house, but we are not putting pressure on him, but heâd like to do that. It would be awesome if he could buy mum and dad a house one day. Weâd be proud.â
When Latrell was doing it tough last year, he turned to his family to help him get his career back on track.
âIt was personal stuff and only [Roosters coach] Trent Robinson knew about it,â Matthew said. âHe [Latrell] couldnât tell anyone else. He came home for a bit and I took him out and we had to re-evaluate his career. He has a little daughter now and that was the biggest thing that was going on with him.
ââI talked to him about what happened to me in my career [he played lower grades for Souths], about not coping in Sydney, and I reminded him about the sacrifices his mum and I made and how we didnât have a car at a time … it was a reality check.
ââI talked to him about how hard it should be to walk away from what he has. He never thought about quitting football. I told him about how I blew my chance and to think about that. But the main issue was what he was going through with his partner. He has always been a family man. It was always just that stage last year when he and Brielle were trying to work to be together and everything fell into place and Iâm really happy.â
Luke and learn
The Bluesâ use of former referee Luke Phillips as part of their squad shows how in tune coach Brad Fittler is.
Phillips understands how the referees operate, in particular Ashley Klein, who is a good mate. It could prove a vital appointment by Fittler, especially since the refs have had such an influence on the game this year.
Itâs difficult to decipher if the rumblings out of the Bulldogs are being driven by players who have been tapped on the shoulder and told they might be moved on, but the reviews of Dogs coach Dean Pay are not great.
Players want it known they are not learning from Pay and there are certain senior players who remain thoroughly unimpressed by him. Pay is dealing with a playing group where everyone is for sale, so that wouldnât be helping him in the slightest.
There is a faction who wanted the Dogs to make a serious play for Storm mentor Craig Bellamy. Sadly, the club is in a real mess with its roster. The departure of Moses Mbye to the Tigers next season has been hard for everyone.
Hayne eyes rugby
The Eels say they are waiting to see how Jarryd Hayne returns from injury before deciding if they want to make a play for him beyond this year. They want to see him play at least six weeks before making up their minds.
There are already rumblings Hayne may want to be part of Fijiâs team at the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.
Hayne has confided in those close to him that he is thinking about it.
He has been outstanding behind the scenes at Parramatta, helping the team and doing everything the club has asked of him despite a terrible run with injury.
Eels talk shop
Corey Normanâs management believe they have the right to shop him around after the Eels started the process a few weeks back. There has been speculation about whether Norman, whose contract finishes next year, is wanted at Parramatta. He isnât.
And what is annoying Normanâs team is that the Eels started approaching rival clubs â Canberra, for a start â without clearing it with Normanâs management.
Normanâs agent, Paul Sutton, found out from clubs Parramatta were dealing with. As a result, there is a view that there is no need for Normanâs team to ask Parramatta for permission to test the market.
The Eels will tell you Norman will not be there at the end of his contract, which finishes next year. They have had enough of his off-field behaviour; something they would put up with if he was firing on the field.
A few of my sources were on the phone during the week to suggest the same thing: that Wayne Bennett was heading to the Eels. Eels chief executive Bernie Gurr said no one, officially or otherwise, had approached Bennett, or anyone close to him.
Danny Weidler is a sport columnist for The Sydney Morning Herald.