Everything Is A Test Right Now As Cap Pressures Force Changes

The Melbourne Storm are in the almost impossible situation where by they have to shed hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of player contracts, that they are 100% committed to having to pay, in order to be under the salary cap for the start of the 2011 NRL season.

The Storm tend to have a very different wage scale to other clubs. They pay their big stars huge amounts of money and then surround them with much lower salary players. Because they are well coached and develop players better than any other club in the NRL, it works for them.

How many discarded rejects from other clubs have the Storm taken on board and turned into representative players? Heaps!

So with being so far other the salary cap, the feeling is that the Storm basically don’t have any wiggle room at the lower end of their salary scale. They can’t just move a few players here and there and sign up minimum contract players to alleviate their salary cap pressure, for the simple fact that, many of their top grade squad are already on the minimum contract allowed under NRL rules anyway!

That means the Melbourne Storm will have to lose some of their star players.

Cameron Smith is on a huge contract at the Storm right now, and he has missed the clubs last two games with a dislocated elbow.

Don’t think for a second that the club, and Craig Bellemy, have not been keenly interested in seeing how the Storm might play without Smith in their side.

Now in the first game without Smith, his loss was felt in a huge way. It was a gaping hole the likes of which you won’t see outside of the world of pornography.

In the followup game against the Canberra Raiders, a tough contest, the club went ok without Smith.

You don’t think there aren’t people at the Storm thinking “if we cut ties with Cameron Smith at the end of the season, we would be just about under the 2011 salary cap straight away”?

I’ve been watching the Storm play and trying to pick up and what they are doing differently compared to their previous games. I’ve been trying to pick up on any experiments that might indicate that the Storm are using tactics to see which players are more valuable then others.

I was interested to note that in the win over the Canberra Raiders, Billy Slater did a lot of kicking. Ryan Hoffman played a lot more up the middle of the park rather then out wider.

Sure these tactics might have just been what Craig Bellemy wanted to use to beat the Canberra Raiders. However, what if Bellemy wanted to see how Billy Slater would go as the clubs five-eight? What if Bellemy wanted to give Hoffman a more traditional second rower role to see how big of an impact the loss of his wider running game would make?

One thing I think we have seen is that the Cronk/Slater combination is vital, and I can’t see that being broken up at all.

Cameron Smith? Well I wrote a couple of weeks ago he was vital for the club to hold onto, for on and off field reasons. However, you look at the number of top class hookers in the game right now, and how the Storm copped last night without him. It makes you question where the breaking point is and at what stage you say, fine, we’ll do without him.

Greg Inglis is being thrown around in the media as very likely to go, with everyone bar Manchester Untied said to be interested in signing him. However, something tells me that Inglis isn’t going anywhere. I get the same feeling with Cooper Cronk. I just feel like the club is willing to go to certain lengths to keep those two, even if they are both playing in a reserve grade quality Storm team next season!

What I think we’ll see happen is that all of this hoopla about the salary cap, the need for concessions and the push for players to get paid more will play right into the hands of the Melbourne Storm.

Don’t for a second think that I haven’t thought about the push from the media being very convenient for the Storm either…

I think what we’ll see is that the NRL will review its salary cap rules at seasons end. They will bring in some small concessions for long serving players who were developed by the one club. They will relax the third party player payment rules and they will boost the salary cap by a few hundred thousand.

The changes will not be massive, they will all be pretty subtle, and players, coaches, club CEO’s and fans will widely welcome the changes with rave reviews all round.

Oh and look, they will all help the Storm keep most of their team together as well. Geez, that worked out well!

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