http://www.heraldsun.com.au/sport/nrl/t ... fb4073204aMelbourne Storm in contract talks to extend Cameron Smith beyond 2018
Gilbert Gardiner, Herald Sun
MELBOURNE Storm will start informal contract talks with champion Cameron Smith next week.
The reigning Dally M medallist will return to the club on Monday, after an extended break due to the World Cup, to prepare for a 17th — and possibly final — NRL season.
The legendary hooker’s return kickstarts a busy period for Storm on and off the field, with contract talks, the World Club Challenge and trial games on the agenda.
Storm wants to retain Smith and premiership mastermind Craig Bellamy beyond next season, as well as blunt any potential poaching raids of three premiership linchpins.
With Curtis Scott is close to finalising a long-term deal, the Herald Sun understands Tim Glasby (2018) and Felise Kaufusi (option 2019) could also be locked away before the start of the season.
Storm booked a closed trial game against Newcastle Knights on February 7, before the World Club Challenge clash against Super League champions Leeds Rhinos on February 16 at AAMI Park.
Storm football director Frank Ponissi said Smith, Slater and Chambers had all signalled their intent to face the Rhinos, despite the short turnaround.
“The plan is to play them, absolutely, but we’ll make that decision closer to the game,” Ponissi said.
“We’re certainly taking it very seriously, that’s why we organised the Newcastle trial … we didn’t want to go into the World Club Challenge without a game given Leeds would have already started their season.”
The secret trial against the Knights was booked only after Leeds confirmed it would be travelling to Australia.
“Our players won’t play the full (trial) game, just to give them an opportunity to have some hit-outs to get their timing in both in attack and defence,” Ponissi said.
Ponissi revealed Chambers took it upon himself, during a three-week family holiday in Queensland, to train with Storm feeder club, Sunshine Coast Falcons.
“They’re the ultimate professionals, Bill and Will,” Ponissi said.
“They’ve come back in absolute A1 condition, so in a couple of weeks we’d be surprised if they were not playing in the World Club Challenge.
“It’s gone to another level, the last few days, the quality of training.”