Melbourne Storm captain Cameron Smith has slammed the hostile reception Billy Slater received from the ANZ Stadium crowd, saying the NRL legend deserved better.
Slater was heckled with boos – even during the pre-game ceremony for the game's retiring players – as his fairytale end to his career turned into a miserable send off as his Storm side fell to a 21-6 defeat to the Sydney Roosters.
Smith said Slater deserved more respect from the Sydney fans, who also booed Slater during his final on-field interview.
Many NRL commentators were angered by the crowd's treatment of the retiring star.
Crowd booing Billy Slater after seeing him interviewed on big screen. Absolute class. #NRLGF— James Smith Inside Sport (@JamesSmith1001) September 30, 2018
The boos for Slater was disgusting, what has he done.— Ben Cross (@bencross_BCLF) September 30, 2018
Pathetic Sydney crowd booing Billy Slater - he’s just lost a grand final in the final game of a storied career - he’s all class - they’re the opposite. #NRLGF— Dean Felton (@DeanFelton7) September 30, 2018
Cameron Smith just said Billy Slater deserved more respect from the fans who were booing him at ANZ Stadium tonight. Fair comment. He has earned that— Brent Read (@brentread_7) September 30, 2018
Earlier, Slater was also heckled by the fans at ANZ stadium when he appeared on the big screen preparing for the game in the dressing rooms, which provoked a similar response on social media.
After the game, Slater was philosophical about his career and gracious in defeat.
"It's now how it's panned out, that's footy," Slater said.
"We tried our best but that's the way it goes. I'm really grateful for the career I've had, the friends I've made and what rugby league has done for me.
"It taught me lots of things – selflessness, respect. I appreciate everything everyone has done for me.
"We didn't help ourselves. We dropped the ball…we couldn't handle their big guys. That's footy. It's the way it went."