Fans urged not to boo Cameron Smith during the NRL Grand Final

Melbourne legend Billy Slater and NRL CEO Andrew Abdo have urged footy fans to show Cameron Smith and his Storm teammates some respect when they face Penrith in the Grand Final on Sunday night.

Smith is yet to announce whether he will retire at season’s end or continue playing in 2021. But whatever his future holds, the 37-year-old will be desperate to add another premiership ring to his collection.

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Despite being the most decorated player in the game, Smith is a polarising figure. From being involved in Melbourne’s salary cap cheating scandal to accusations he behaves like an extra referee, the Storm hooker isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.

Add to that the misery he heaped on New South Welshmen and women for years as a part of Queensland’s State of Origin juggernaut and you can see why he might not be so welcome in Sydney.

But Smith’s former teammate Slater has asked fans at ANZ Stadium on Sunday to cut his mate some slack.

“I honestly don’t know why (Smith gets criticised). Those people who are critical of Cameron mustn’t know him like I do,” Slater told the Sydney Morning Herald.

“He’s not selfish — he’s as selfless as any one I’ve played with — and if we had 400 Cameron Smiths running around as role models, our game would be in a handy spot.

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“I don’t mind fans being patriotic and that’s what makes our game great. We just need to be careful it doesn’t turn into abuse.

“We’ve cracked down on racial abuse, which is fantastic, but abuse is abuse and we need to make sure everyone is respectful to our players and everyone in the game.”

Abdo, who was installed as NRL boss this year after Todd Greenberg left the organisation, echoed Slater’s thoughts.

“Cameron is a legend of the game, he’s done what nobody else has done and that’s bring up his 430th game,” Abdo told the Herald. “He is a player every fan would secretly love to have on their team.

“I’ll be disappointed if he gets anything other than absolute respect and recognition.

“Regardless of who fans support, everyone respects the remarkable achievements of Cameron Smith. He is one of our greatest-ever players.”

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