As Alex McKinnon moves on, Cameron Smith is still playing the victim

Anger is gone: Knights physio Pip Cave helps Alex McKinnon with his rehab. Photo: Marina Neil
Anger is gone: Knights physio Pip Cave helps Alex McKinnon with his rehab. Photo: Marina Neil

Alex McKinnon is three years down the track from the night that changed his life. He gets married in three weeks. Darius Boyd will be his best man. Dane Gagai will be in the bridal party. His old coach, Wayne Bennett, will be there. It will be a great day.

McKinnon says the anger has gone and he wants to move on. He even wants to have a coffee with Cameron Smith, the player who appeared to ignore his plight and concentrated on talking to the referee while McKinnon lay on the turf in obvious distress.

Olive branch: Alex McKinnon would like to have a coffee with Cameron Smith. Photo: NRL Photos

Olive branch: Alex McKinnon would like to have a coffee with Cameron Smith. Photo: NRL Photos

Smith's actions on that night have been debated, defended and slammed, but they are still difficult to fathom for many close to McKinnon. Smith's part in the incident was highlighted in a 60 Minutes story. McKinnon's anger was intense and the makers of the program were heavily criticised, with claims it was edited selectively and that Smith should have been given the right of reply.

Smith became the story, and his supporters leapt to his defence. But sadly, after all is said and done, McKinnon is still unable to do what he loves – play football. Smith is still going on about the media stitch-up. He told colleague Andrew Webster last week: "I don't call it the 'Alex McKinnon stuff', it's the '60 Minutes stuff'. That was pretty ordinary. More so for my family I was upset. My family had to sit through that and answer questions about it. It was a hatchet job if there was one. It was a stitch-up on myself. In fairness to Alex, I think they stitched him up, too. He was in a really difficult situation. I still haven't seen the story, but by all reports it was a fantastic piece until they brought me into it. I don't know why they went down the line that they did."

They went down that path because in the days after the incident, everyone was talking about Smith's reaction. The week it happened, this column raised it and offered Cam the opportunity to speak before we went to print. I didn't get an answer and have never had an answer regarding his actions.

Not giving Smith a right of reply is something 60 minutes was bagged for. They should have. It's my understanding that McKinnon didn't want a Smith interview as part of his TV story.

For this week's column, I again contacted the Storm to speak to Smith about his comments to Webster and why he re-raised it. Storm head of communications Sarah Kalaja sent the following email: "I have spoken with Cameron and he has declined the request for interview. To your point that [Smith] brought up [the McKinnon incident] in the story, I would like to clarify the following:

"The question was: 'His career hasn't always been smooth sailing – there have been some challenging/tough moments along the way.'

"Cameron responded with the 2010 salary cap incident, 2008 GF suspension and the 60 Minutes issue. He made it very clear in his response, as per the printed quotes, he refers toit as the 60 Minutes issue, not AlexMcKinnon."

Smith can say what he wants, but as an experienced media performer he knew raising the McKinnon incident would bring a response. The Nine Network took the generous step of apologising. Smith sat next to Paul Vautin on The Footy Show as Vautin dished out a lengthy apology. And Cam accepted it.

Privately, high-level executives from Nine flew to Melbourne and apologised to Smith and his family face-to-face. This was because Smith was not speaking to Nine on their football coverage. He is considered important, but it's hard to imagine one person not tuning into the coverage because Smith wasn't speaking.

When you get that level of apology, you think you move on. Not Smith. He said what he said to Webster.

He also said that McKinnon was stitched up by the story. I spoke to McKinnon this week.

"I saw the story before it went to air and I was happy with it," he said. "I was very angry at the time because of what happened to me and now I've let that go. I may do the story differently now, but that was how I felt at the time. I have moved on. I don't want to live with that anger in me."

McKinnon has talked with Smith on the phone, but would like more. "I'd like to have a coffee with him and just see where the conversation goes, and if there is a good outcome, that would be good. If not, it would be good to have a conversation with someone who has done as much as he has as a footballer."

Smith has never watched the 60 Minutes story and may never read this column. But if he does, maybe he will come to the conclusion that when it comes to McKinnon perspective is something he is lacking. There was one person whose life changed forever that night, and it was not his.