Queensland veteran Corey Parker admits captain Cameron Smith has been affected by Alex McKinnon’s scathing criticism ahead of Wednesday night’s State of Origin decider.
Parker said the Maroons were rallying around Smith on Monday after McKinnon’s comments on Channel Nine’s 60 Minutes program on Sunday night.
Ex-Newcastle forward McKinnon told the program that he remained upset over on-field comments Melbourne skipper Smith made to referees following the tackle in March last year that left him in a wheelchair with a severe spinal injury.
McKinnon believed Smith had implied his actions when held in the three-man tackle were partly to blame for him landing head first.
“When you are part of a team there comes a time when you lean on each other – this is one of those times,” Parker said at Queensland’s Gold Coast camp.
“It’s affected him (Smith) to some degree. When your integrity gets questioned or someone has an opinion on it, it is never good.”
Showed a replay of the fateful tackle on the program, McKinnon said it was “f…..g ridiculous” that Smith was arguing with the referee about being penalised as the injured player was assisted and carried off the field.
Parker said national captain Smith would have reacted very differently had he known the severity of McKinnon’s injury at the time.
“I have known Cameron since he was a young boy,” Parker said.
“The person I know is of a humble, good human.
“At no stage when those comments were made would he have known of the severity of the tackle – we can all vouch for that.”
McKinnon also said he had not heard from the Australian and Queensland captain since the accident.
It is understood neither Smith nor his management or NRL club Melbourne were asked to appear on the 60 Minutes program, although the Storm issued a statement on Sunday saying Smith and other Melbourne players had asked to visit McKinnon when he was in hospital.
Smith was not expected to front the media on Monday.
Asked if Smith should apologise or “clear the air”, Parker said: “I feel in due course Cameron will talk.
“(However) I know there have been attempts by Melbourne to get into contact (with McKinnon) but it was to no avail.
“But there are no winners in this situation. It is just a terrible, terrible accident.”
Smith was reunited by his family at the Gold Coast camp on Monday after they flew up from Melbourne.