The return flight to Queensland will be a party plane or a big, mile-high sigh.
Melbourne has already established the core of its roster on long-term deals, including Cameron Munster (late 2023), Ryan Papenhuyzen (2022), Harry Grant (2023) and Nelson Asofa-Solomona (2023).
But lock forward Dale Finucane and Jahrome Hughes are two players who will no longer have a contract at the end of next year and who would attract a lot of interest from opposing clubs. Felise Kaufusi is another star backrower with an option in his favor for 2022.
Josh Addo-Carr’s early release will create a little more room for salary caps, but Melbourne is digging in and will only release the representative winger if they land a top notch winger.
The club have since signed George Jennings from Parramatta and center-back Jonah Pezet from Newcastle, and there are high hopes for Brisbane students’ rugby prodigy Jack Howarth.
Like the Sydney Roosters, the Storms face the little problem of developing young players to the point where they become so good – and appeal to top rivals – that they are forced to pay a premium in order to retain their own talent.
While some of the game’s highest-paid players take home around $ 1.2 million each season, including Queensland couple Daly Cherry-Evans and Ben Hunt, Smith has bagged around $ 800,000 in recent years, however with the conclusion of contracts from third-party providers more than covered all deficiencies.
A loss could tempt the highly competitive dummy half to go on for another year.
In good news for Melbourne, Brandon Smith was cleared of any serious injury after complaining of double vision against Canberra.
The storm will fly to Sydney on Saturday after their captain’s run on the Sunshine Coast. You are only allowed to stay one night in NSW before flying back in the early hours of Monday morning.
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Christian covers rugby league for The Sydney Morning Herald.
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