Melbourne Storm captain Cameron Smith couldn’t resist pulling a cheeky prank on Queensland Maroons teammate Daly Cherry-Evans ahead of Sunday’s clash on the Sunshine Coast.
After a three-week absence due to a shoulder injury, Smith made his highly-anticipated return for the round 16 clash against the Manly Sea Eagles.
Before the match got underway at Sunshine Coast Stadium, Manly skipper Cherry-Evans conducted an interview with Fox League, but the unsuspecting halfback did not notice Smith creeping up behind him.
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The NRL great gave Cherry-Evans a pinch from behind, and the $10 million star jumped a metre in the air.
“Oh f***ing hell mate,” Cherry-Evans yelled.
Smith could barely contain his laughter, giggling like a rebellious schoolboy.
“Did you get that?” Smith asked the camera operator.
“I hope he’s jumping that much in the game.”
The duo made amends, but Brisbane Broncos great Ben Ikin believes there was a deeper meaning behind the hilarious moment.
“Cameron Smith was smiling, but shooting daggers with his eyes,” Ikin said on Fox League.
Former Sydney Roosters star Braith Anasta referred to the altercation as “a fake good luck before the game.”
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Melbourne were touted as outright favourites to claim their 13th victory of the season, but Manly were handed the perfect opportunity to secure the first points of the match when Jake Trbojevic booted the footy into open space on the right wing.
Unfortunately, Sea Eagles winger Reuben Garrick fumbled the ball and the try was disallowed after the decision went upstairs.
Inevitably, the Storm immediately bounced back, with centre Justin Olam diving over in the 11th minute.
Smith then proved why he’s still one of the best in the NRL, kicking the ball 60 metres for speedster Josh Addo-Carr to score unopposed.
“We just become used to a Cameron Smith kick like that don’t we,” Penrith Panthers legend Greg Alexander said on Fox League.
“Inside the 40, we thought 40/20 but that wasn’t the case. He wanted to keep it infield because Addo-Carr had come in and was ready for the chase.
“A planned play that works, it’s great when those things come off.”
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There was some debate about whether Addo-Carr was onside, but the try was awarded nevertheless.
However, Melbourne centre Marion Seve limped off the ground in the first half after he sustained a suspected ACL rupture.
Sporadic errors and a lack of possession in the forward half ensured the Sea Eagles were unable to close the gap before halftime.
Sydney Morning Herald chief sports writer Andrew Webster tweeted: “Manly might be behind on the scoreboard but they are cutting some of these Storm blokes in half in defence.”
Regardless, the Storm continued their relentless tirade in the second half, steaming towards a convincing 30-6 victory.
To rub salt into the wounds, Addo-Carr sprinted 65 metres to score another try in the closing seconds of the match.
Olam finished the contest with a hat-trick, while forward Nelson Asofa-Solomona was the other tryscorer for the Storm.
“I thought we were a bit clunky early on, especially our defence. Plenty to work on tonight but nice to get a victory,” Smith told Channel 9 after the match.
“I think we’re really happy with the way the side is performing, especially with the effort.
“If you look at the last three weeks when we’ve had numerous players out, the guys put in a lot of effort to go down to Sydney and get a win against the Roosters.
“I thought they were really brave against Parramatta.
“The effort is there which is all you can ask for.”
Although Manly’s finals hopes are in tatters, Melbourne remain in second spot on the NRL ladder.
Next weekend, the Storm will take on the in-form South Sydney Rabbitohs, while the Sea Eagles will face the Wests Tigers.