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Smith next target for Storm

By Guy Hand 10/09/2008 06:23:28 PM Comments (0)

NRL premiers Melbourne's next mission is to secure captain Cameron Smith long-term under a salary cap which shrunk significantly following Greg Inglis' re-signing.

Inglis' big-money four-year deal, along with the signatures of halfback Cooper Cronk, winger Anthony Quinn and lock Dallas Johnson to long-term contracts this year, has left Smith as the last big-name to commit long-term to the club.

The Storm also has fullback Billy Slater signed until the end of 2010.

Smith, who is contracted until the end of 2009, has stated his family is likely to be the key to whether he extends his contract with the Storm beyond the end of next year.

Both Smith and partner Barbara grew up in south-east Queensland.

With daughter Jada born earlier this year, the lure of their extended family who remain in Queensland will be pivotal in negotiations for what will probably be Smith's last major contract.

But Storm chief executive Brian Waldron said despite the Inglis deal, there remained room under the cap to keep Smith long-term provided he wanted to stay and was prepared to accept less than cashed-up rival clubs could offer.

"We can only pay so much and there are sacrifices that need to be made to play with the Storm," Waldron said.

"I don't think there's any player that if we want to keep we'll lose, provided it's not for personal reasons.

"If you look at anyone we've lost, it's either for salary cap reasons when we've chosen to release them, or it's a personal issue."

The Storm are likely to re-open contract negotiations with Smith at the end of the current season.

Melbourne have cleared room under the cap with teenage star Israel Folau, stalwart back Matt Geyer, and forwards Michael Crocker, Jeremy Smith and Antonio Kaufusi all to depart at season's end.

Folau chose to move back to Brisbane for personal reasons, Geyer is retiring, while the other three were squeezed out by the salary cap.

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