STORM skipper Cameron Smith is reportedly locked in a stand-off with the club over the terms of his contract extension.
Smith was a conspicuous absentee from the Storm’s 2019 squad list announced last week, with Melbourne reportedly yet to sign off on his third party deals, according to The Daily Telegraph.
Smith’s manager Isaac Moses is believed to be attempting to plump up Smith’s final rugby league contract with third party arrangements, but the Storm are refusing to budge.
The Storm have lost all-time greats Cooper Cronk to the Roosters in 2017 and Billy Slater to retirement in 2018, so Smith’s signature is vital.
The club can’t afford to lose someone of Smith’s stature and leadership, as the Storm aim to stay relevant in the post Cronk and Slater era.
It was reported Smith had agreed to a deal in principal as far back as September, but the fact he is still yet to sign is a concern for the Storm, with clubs already returning for the 2019 pre-season.
Storm CEO Dave Donaghy confirmed in October that he expected Smith to play on with the Storm in 2019.
“That is the plan, everyone’s been asking me the question,” Donaghy said.
“I never have been one to work towards other’s timelines.
“We’re in continued discussions and there’s nothing untoward around any of that so we expect to get that done at some point soon.”
Reports suggested Smith had not been offered an official contract up until a week after the grand final, but Donaghy was adamant that Smith was firmly in the club’s plans.
“No, that’s rubbish, he has been offered a contract and it’s with them,” Donaghy said on October 4.
“Cameron said he didn’t have a contract which is technically true because it was only sent through to his inbox this week.
“There’s been an offer there for a long time and discussions have been really positive and constructive all the way through.
“We’re not going to work to other people’s timelines, we’ll work to ours and that’ll get done at some point.”
However, a month later and the Storm and Smith have still not reached an agreement.
Smith has been staunchly loyal to the Storm throughout his career and it is difficult to see him joining another club.
The Storm know it is unlikely Smith would leave the club to join another team this late in his career, which is perhaps why they are playing hard ball.
However, Smith’s patience has the potential to run out if his demands for the final contract of his glittering career are not met.
Melbourne Storm 2019 squad: Albert Vete, Felise Kaufusi, Ryan Papenhuyzen, Billy Walters, Jahrome Hughes, Sam Kasiano, Brandon Smith, Jesse Bromwich, Scott Drinkwater, Brodie Croft, Joe Stimson, Suliasi Vunivalu, Cameron Munster, Josh Addo-Carr, Thomas Eisenhuth, Cheyse Blair, Justin Olam, Tino Faasuamaleaui, Christian Welch, Kenny Bromwich, Will Chambers, Curtis Scott, Marion Seve, Dale Finucane, Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Tui Kamikamica, Patrick Kaufusi