Titans ‘no hope’ as Storm prepare for end of an era
The Melbourne Storm are bracing for Cameron Smith to retire.
News Corp can reveal the Melbourne board have been instructed to prepare for the possibility of Smith unveiling his retirement plans before the start of the Storm's finals campaign later this month.
But Storm chairman Matt Tripp has refuted speculation Melbourne bosses have slapped a deadline on Smith and insists the 37-year-old will not be lost to potential suitors the Gold Coast Titans.
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Smith played his 425th game against South Sydney on Friday night and the Storm remain in the dark over whether the most-capped player in NRL history will lace up for a 20th season of first grade in 2021.
But Melbourne powerbrokers privately believe Smith is on the verge of drawing the curtain on his decorated career.
It is a sentiment fuelled by the internal belief that Smith, given his passion for the club, would not leave Melbourne scrambling so late in the season to sort out a salary-cap conundrum if he played on next year.
Smith's situation was discussed at Melbourne's board meeting on Tuesday. Tripp said he had no firm answer from Smith at this stage, but made it clear the Storm executive had agreed for the former Queensland Origin skipper to decide his future on his terms.
"I can give you my word on this - there has been no ultimatum issued to Cameron, that's 100 per cent not right," Tripp said.
"We had a really positive board meeting on Tuesday where we reached consensus where both parties are comfortable. Cameron, his management and his family and the Melbourne Storm are comfortable to afford Cameron some more time.
"Contrary to some speculation, we are not hung up on when Cam will make a call.
"There has been some commentary that we are demanding an answer ... whether Cam plays on or not, our salary cap is in perfect order and will be for next year. That argument can be taken off the table.
"I honestly don't know when Cam will decide his future.
"A lot of people have been saying it (Smith's uncertain future) is a distraction and that we need to know by a certain date."I believe we have landed in the right spot which is showing Cam the respect he deserves.
"Cam will not hurt the club. He, more than anyone, understands the repercussions of whether he plays on and what it means for the Storm.
"He is acutely aware of the domino effect."
Asked if Smith could play at Brisbane or the Titans next year, Tripp said: "I genuinely don't know about the Broncos. I'd be surprised if he went to the Titans, I think the Gold Coast are no hope, but I can't answer what the Broncos are planning and whether they have approached him.
"It's my understanding they haven't."
Tripp is adamant the club will not lose Brandon Smith if the skipper soldiers on in 2021. The Storm will also fight to assure fellow hooking understudy Harry Grant, currently on-loan at the Wests Tigers, that he has a prosperous future in Melbourne.
"I prided myself on getting creative and if Cam wants to play on, that's what I will have to do to keep Cam, Brandon and Harry at the club," he said.
"Cam will do things on his terms which is what we have all agreed. I am very relaxed about it. I am confident we will be strong next year with or without Cam."
Originally published as Titans 'no hope' as Storm prepare for end of an era