The gift for Barbara Smith came from the NRL. Photo: Scott Barbour/Getty Images
The gift for Barbara Smith came from the NRL. Photo: Scott Barbour/Getty Images

NRL defends lavish gift to Smith’s wife

THE NRL is scrambling to explain why Cameron Smith's wife Barb was presented with a diamond ring in recognition of her husband's 400th game.

The gift was not listed among the official ones to Smith when the NRL formally celebrated his milestone in July and has raised questions about why the wife of a player would be rewarded by the game.

The lavish gift was not approved by the Australian Rugby League Commission.

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At the time of the milestone match, the NRL revealed it was presenting Smith a Waterford crystal football after the game, as well as a specially commissioned mural in Smith's image in Richmond.

No mention of the diamond ring was made.

Greenberg presented Barb Smith with the ring at a private dinner the NRL held for her husband in the week leading up to this 400th game. While the dinner was covered in various sections of the press, there was no mention of the ring.

Cameron Smith and his wife Barb, who was gifted a ring (not the one picture) by the NRL.
Cameron Smith and his wife Barb, who was gifted a ring (not the one picture) by the NRL.

NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg defended the gift on Thursday.

"Our biggest stars wouldn't be where they are today without the women in their lives,'' Greenberg said.

"We make no apologies for honouring the amazing role Barb has played and the sacri­fices she has made throughout Cameron's career.

"His feat made history and may never be done again. It was right to acknowledge the achievement in the way we did."

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The Storm denied they were involved.

"We had no idea it was ­coming," Storm chief executive Dave Donaghy said. "It was a gift from the NRL. We gave her a bunch of flowers."

It comes after the NRL ­allowed Smith a testimonial game at Suncorp Stadium at the start of last year, well before his retirement, when he pocketed $150,000 while donating $15,000 to a charity.

There's no suggestion that Smith or his wife have done anything wrong.

A concern for Smith and the NRL is also whether the gift has income tax implications.

While Barb Smith will claim the ring was a gift, the Australian Taxation Office could deem it assessable income given the ring was received in recognition of her husband's occupation.

An NRL spokesman said the gift to Barb Smith had no salary cap implications.

"It is a gift from the NRL," the spokesman said. "No different to gifts for 300 games, premiership rings or players who are paid out of the NRL marketing fund to promote events."

The NRL says that, depending on the player's circumstances, it will replicate the gift for any player who gets to 400.

Cameron Smith at his testimonial at Suncorp Stadium. Photo: AAP Image/Josh Woning
Cameron Smith at his testimonial at Suncorp Stadium. Photo: AAP Image/Josh Woning

St George Illawarra's James Graham played his 400th first-grade game last weekend with limited official recognition.

Why Smith's wife was given the gift at all is confusing given Smith received the Waterford crystal ball in recognition of his achievement.

There are also questions around the lack of transparency around the lavish present given how well Smith has been rewarded and the peculiar relationship between the Storm and the game's administration.

Melbourne have been allowed to celebrate their 2009 season, for instance, going as far as carrying official commemoration on their NRL jersey ''celebrating 1999 & 2009 grand finals'', with no recrimination from the NRL.

This is after the Storm were stripped of their 2009 premiership for cheating the salary cap.

The Storm had their name removed from the premiership trophy and were ordered to remove the 2007 and 2009 premierships from their website.