The Melbourne Storm’s hopes of Cameron Munster leading the club into the post “big three” era are fading by the day.
NRL.com understands Munster’s future at the club is now up in the air as senior officials and players grow frustrated with his attitude and lifestyle choices.
A couple of Sydney clubs are keeping a close eye on the events unfolding at Melbourne in relation to Munster, who was recently fined by the club as a result of his behaviour.
The Queensland and Australian star has undoubted talent, but the Storm have a history of not tolerating fools.
They pride themselves on their standards and culture and Munster is falling well and truly short of their expectations.
The 23-year-old is off contract at the end of 2019, but NRL.com understands he runs the risk of not seeing that out if he does not change his ways.
The revelation last week from Fox Sports of a stoush with Kangaroos teammate Ben Hunt during last year’s World Cup were on the mark despite Hunt’s attempt to water down the incident in a recent interview with NRL.com.
He was sent back to Melbourne from Darwin by Kangaroos officials before rejoining the squad in Brisbane for the week of the semi-final.
Earlier in the tournament on the day after Australia’s win over England in the opening game of the World Cup in Melbourne, Munster also failed to return to the team hotel following a day at the races. He didn’t arrive back in camp until the next morning.
Storm and Australian skipper Cameron Smith hasn’t shirked away from expressing his displeasure with Munster following past indiscretions.
It is understood Smith is furious with Munster’s reluctance to embrace the professionalism that defines the culture of the club under coach Craig Bellamy, but also what Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga is trying to build with the national side.
Munster’s career is now at a crossroads. If he doesn’t decide to get his act together, then those Sydney clubs monitoring the situation will have a chance to pounce in the near future.
But if Munster can’t stay out of trouble in Melbourne, where he is unrecognisable to most locals, he will struggle to deal with the fishbowl that is Sydney.
The Storm often get phone calls from representatives from Melbourne-based AFL clubs letting them know of Munster’s whereabouts.
In an interview with NRL.com in November prior to the World Cup game against France in Canberra, Munster spoke about how he has changed. About how previously he got caught up in the nightlife and antics, but that was now a thing of the past.
We never ran that story. Before publishing, your columnist made several phone calls to people in the game who suggested we ran the risk of having egg on our face if we followed through with the Munster redemption story.
In that interview, though, Munster referenced a particular incident before a trial game against the Canberra Raiders in Griffith a few years ago in which Bellamy tore shreds off him. It was meant to be a line in the sand moment.
Here’s what Munster said at the time:
“I still remember the day. I went out until 1am on the Sunday morning we were supposed to play. I was out having brekkie and I was telling the boys. Bellyache was behind me and he didn’t say anything until he saw how I played on Sunday arvo. And of course, I played like cactus. He ripped me a new one. Pretty much in front of everyone, he questioned if I really wanted to play rugby league and really wanted to be at this club.
“He said ‘what would you rather do, dig holes or play football for us?’. He didn’t say it in that nice of a tone. I went back home and had a bit of a chat and realised that this was something I wanted to do. That was a turning point for me and I started trying to pull my head in as much as I could. Bellyache let me know that. He said ‘you’re not bigger than the game’. He said if you do that again you’re gone. I was stepping on thin ice for a while.”
Let’s just say those same conversations are happening again. The Storm were once willing to offer Munster a lifetime 10-year deal.
They baulked. Not over concerns of his ability, but because of the unknown that comes with him off the field. Now it’s up to him to prove yet again how much he really doesn’t want to dig holes.
Cartwright’s salary sacrifice
Bryce Cartwright has taken a significant pay cut in leaving the Penrith Panthers to link with the Gold Coast Titans.
He will give up a third-party arrangement worth around $200,000 a year, sacrificing close to $1 million over the course of his four-year deal with the Titans.
There has been a lot of murmurs out of Penrith about the relationship between the players and coach Anthony Griffin.
This is completely unrelated. This is a deal struck in the best interest of both parties. Cartwright needs a change of scenery after an emotionally draining 12 months.
His life has spiralled out of control and hopes the guidance of a father-figure like Titans coach Garth Brennan will help him find happiness off the field and in turn rekindle his form of old on the field.
The Panthers have been very supportive of Cartwright the past year but the reality is he is no longer one of their premier players. The emergence of Corey Harawira-Naera and the development of Isaah Yeo meant Cartwright faced the likelihood of playing off the bench or potentially in the Intrust Super Premiership this year.
The club couldn’t afford to have one of their highest paid players contributing minimally, so when the opportunity presented itself at the Titans, they were more than accommodating in allowing Cartwright to depart.
The Panthers have lost quite a few players in the pre-season, but Phil Gould rarely loses the ones he wants to keep.
Roosters sniffed around Hayne
The Sydney Roosters still have some money in the salary cap and it’s interesting to note they had an appetite to spend that on Jarryd Hayne a couple of months ago.
NRL.com understands the Roosters, after learning of Hayne’s desire to leave the Titans, made discreet enquiries about luring Hayne to Bondi to play in the centres alongside superstar recruits Cooper Cronk and James Tedesco.
It’s safe to assume Hayne would have stood to earn significantly more at the Roosters than the $500,000 he took to rejoin his beloved Parramatta Eels, however he never really entertained anything but returning home to where it all began.
Blues board berths up for grabs
There could be a change of the NSWRL board set-up after this month’s annual general meeting, with directors Ray Dib and Geoff Gerard up for re-election on February 16.
Nominations for the two director roles closed last week, and interestingly Sharks chairman Dino Mezzatesta has been nominated alongside Dib and Gerrard.
The NSWRL board comprises of three independents and four club appointed directors. Both Dib and Gerard are club-appointed.
Gerard no longer has any affiliation with the Parramatta Eels after he was removed from the football club board as a result of the salary cap scandal in 2016. For Dib, the NSWRL AGM comes just five days after the Bulldogs’ own club elections.
Gutho to be kept in cotton wool
The Parramatta Eels won’t take any risks with Clint Gutherson. They are being extra cautious as he recovers from his second ACL knee injury.
While Gutherson is determined to get back as soon as possible, NRL.com understands the Eels are willing to give him as long as it takes. Normal recovery from an ACL injury can take up to nine months. If that’s the case, round eight will bring up the nine-month mark.