Smith says Melbourne’s offences were similar to Cronulla’s in 2016. Picture: Stephen Cooper
Smith says Melbourne’s offences were similar to Cronulla’s in 2016. Picture: Stephen Cooper

Smith’s stunning call for NRL to return Storm titles

Cameron Smith has sensationally called for the NRL to consider handing back Melbourne the two titles they had stripped for salary-cap rorts after cheating rivals Cronulla escaped a premiership sanction.

Speaking at the code's 2019 season launch in Sydney on Thursday night, Smith came out swinging, expressing his dismay at the Sharks retaining their 2016 premiership despite the NRL integrity unit uncovering a salary-cap breach last week.

Melbourne were embroiled in one of Australian sport's biggest scandals in 2010 when the Storm were found to have cheated the salary cap by an estimated $1.7 million over a five-year period.

Former NRL CEO David Gallop threw the book at the Storm, fining the club $1.1 million and stripping Melbourne of their 2007 and 2009 premierships, plus three minor premierships.

The current NRL administration, led by Todd Greenberg, last week issued Cronulla a breach notice proposing a $750,000 fine for systematic salary-cap rorts dating back to the 2013 season.

The NRL alleged the illegal payments did not affect their title-winning 2016 season, allowing the Sharks to keep the premiership they won, ironically by beating Melbourne.

Smith - the most-capped player in NRL history with 384 games - was left devastated by the Storm salary-cap affair and believes there are clear inconsistencies between the sanctions handed out to Cronulla and the Storm.

Cameron Smith wants the NRL to reassess their stripped titles.
Cameron Smith wants the NRL to reassess their stripped titles.
 

Asked if current NRL boss Greenberg should look to reinstate Melbourne's stripped premierships, Storm skipper Smith was unequivocal.

"Absolutely," he said.

"They have a lot on their plate at the moment (with a spate of off-field scandals) and I don't want to take away from some of the things that have happened over the past six months.

"But if the NRL can have a look back and go over what happened at the Storm over those years, they may find there is a different outcome."

Sharks CEO Barry Russell quit on Tuesday after self-reporting Cronulla's salary-cap irregularities.

Smith says Melbourne’s offences were similar to Cronulla’s in 2016. Picture: Stephen Cooper
Smith says Melbourne’s offences were similar to Cronulla’s in 2016. Picture: Stephen Cooper
 

While Smith did not dispute the Storm were guilty of serious salary-cap breaches, he says other offenders in recent years, such as Cronulla and Parramatta, did not receive such heavy-handed penalties.

"We were made to play an entire season without points," Smith said.

"We had premierships taken off us - this (the Sharks salary-cap scandal) is almost like a similar crime with a completely different punishment.

"It (the Storm and Cronulla breaches) are reasonably similar.

"A lot of people got caught up in the overall amount we were over the cap. The NRL did a strategic job of using that entire amount ($1.7 million).

Melbourne had their 2007 and 2009 titles stripped.
Melbourne had their 2007 and 2009 titles stripped.
 

"The most we were over in one season was $500,000.

"If you look over the course of time since 2010 until now, there's a handful of clubs who have been over the cap by similar amounts and they haven't been made to sit out a season or not play for points.

"They have been deducted four points and two points.

"For me the main differences I have seen with the new administration and that is Todd (Greenberg) being involved, he has taken the correct amount of time to go through all the information gathered and come to his decision, rather than seeing a club breach the salary cap and just wielding the axe.

"What happened to us was fairly harsh, we haven't seen anything like it since."