Smith seeks clarity as Storms battle cap conundrum
STORM captain Cameron Smith has sought assurances he will not be rubbed out of the NRL, as Melbourne battles with a salary cap conundrum on the eve of the season.
The club is under pressure to offload at least one player to become salary cap compliant before the Storm host the 2019 NRL season-opener against Brisbane on Thursday week.
Melbourne is believed to be up to $300,000 over its 2019 salary cap, but has until round one to become compliant.
The NRL confirmed to The Courier-Mail that if a team was not compliant before playing a game, the last player signed by the club would be removed from its roster.
In Melbourne's case that is former Kangaroos and Queensland captain Smith, the most capped player in NRL history. He has played 384 games.
On the eve of his 18th NRL season, Smith said he had sought assurances from Melbourne chief executive Dave Donaghy that he would be cleared to face the Broncos.
"I've spoken to our CEO and he is very confident I'm going to be playing round one," Smith said.
"That's all I need, his go-ahead that I'm going to be there. Anything to do with our salary cap has got nothing to do with myself or any other players. That's not our role.
"We're employed to play football the best we can and that's all we can control.
"My only concern was whether I would be playing but my CEO has told me there'll be no worries, I'll be available in round one."
Melbourne officials are racing to offload unwanted prop Sam Kasiano to alleviate salary cap pressure.
The club was adamant it had no concerns about being compliant before hosting the Broncos at AAMI Park, and NRL boss Todd Greenberg said it wasn't an uncommon situation.
"It's not uncommon in this point in time that clubs need to make decisions on roster management," Greenberg said.
"I assume Melbourne are in that space. They'd have some company though as clubs start to get towards the requirements and prescriptive measures about how the compliance of the cap works.
"I expect they're doing that work behind the scenes. There is good management and people there. I'm sure they'll come up with the right answer.
"Cameron Smith has a registered contract with the NRL, but it's up to the club to decide the roster management of its club."
Smith, 35, only re-signed in January following a drawn out contract negotiation. He eventually secured a two-year extension.
He is on track to become the first NRL player to reach 400 games this season but admits he may not play on in 2020.
"There's no handshake deal - what was discussed during my negotiations was that throughout 2019 I'd be in constant conversation with Craig (Bellamy, coach) about my form and where he thought my place in the team was moving forward," Smith said.
"To be honest, that's nothing different to any other year in my career. I've always spoken to Craig closely about my form and if he's happy with the way I've been playing.
"I've got no idea (if I will retire this year). You'd have to ask me at the end of the year.
"My plan is to play well. That's been my plan every year. I'm hoping I do that for our club this year.
"It will be through conversations with Craig about my form and whether that's still good enough to be playing at the elite level.
"If it is then I'd say I'll be considering playing on again."
Smith said Jahrome Hughes would replace Billy Slater in the Storm's No.1 jersey after Scott Drinkwater was ruled out for three months with a torn pec.