Storm in sell-off mode to keep skipper Smith
By Adrian Proszenko
17 November 2018 — 7:30pm
Melbourne are attempting to offload players in order to free up the funds required to meet Cameron Smith’s seven-figure asking price.
The development comes as Storm winger Josh Addo-Carr expressed an interest in taking over from retiring superstar Billy Slater at fullback.
Smith, still arguably the best player in the world at the age of 35, was not part of the 27-man squad the club named earlier this month. The Storm skipper remains unsigned seven weeks after the grand final loss to the Roosters, with the parties yet to come to terms ahead of his scheduled return to pre-season.
Fairfax Media can reveal Melbourne are attempting to move on several contracted players in a bid to extend Smith’s career into an 18th season. Former New Zealand international Sam Kasiano, fellow forward Patrick Kaufusi and utility back Cheyse Blair are among the players the club is willing to release to free up the funds required to allow Smith to become the first man to break the magical 400-game mark.
Kasiano is the biggest-name player deemed surplus to requirements. The former Bulldog still has two years to go on his Melbourne contract, but the club is prepared to pay a portion of his freight should another club attempt to accommodate him. It is understood the Warriors have expressed some interest, although their own salary cap issues mean a player swap is probably their best chance of fitting him in.
At his best, Kasiano is one of the most destructive front-rowers in the game. However, he made just 14 appearances in an injury-plagued first season at the Storm.
The Melbourne hierarchy is still hopeful Smith will lead them into the 2019 season, although it is understood there are some third-party arrangements that need to be resolved. The Victorian outfit desperately needs his experience after losing superstars Cooper Cronk and Slater in the space of 12 months and can ill afford to lose another marquee man.
Addo-Carr said he was hopeful a deal will be struck shortly.
“I haven’t spoken to Smithy since Mad Monday, he’s having a good time with his family,” Addo-Carr said.
“I suppose a decision will come up in the next couple of weeks. It depends on how happy he is and I believe he is happy.
“I hope he signs for the next five years. He is the best player in the world. It depends on how his body pulls up. I’ve got no doubt he’ll play.”
The Storm’s other retention priority is Cameron Munster. The Queensland and Australian representative is off contract but has agreed to terms on a new long-term deal. That has left the Storm with little wiggle room in the cap, even after the departure of Tim Glasby to Newcastle and the retirements of Ryan Hoffman and Slater.
Coach Craig Bellamy faces a huge call on who will replace Slater in the No.1 jersey. While Munster plays his representative football at pivot he is viable option, as is Jahrome Hughes and Ryan Papenhuyzen. A left-field alternative is Addo-Carr, with the NSW winger revealing he would be amenable to the move.
“I’d love to take up the challenge,” Addo-Carr said.
“It depends on what the coaches want, if the coaches said to trial at fullback, I will.
“I’ve played everywhere in the back line. No one can compete with Billy, you’ve got to be very fit to play fullback.
“I don’t see why not. The coaches can chuck me in at fullback at training and I’ll see how I go.
“We’ve got Scott Drinkwater and Jahrome Hughes coming through who play fullback, so I’m happy where I’m at. If the coach wants me to play fullback, I’ll play fullback.”