The flight back to Queensland will be a party plane or a big mile-high sigh.
Melbourne have already nailed down the nucleus of their squad to long-term deals including Cameron Munster (end of 2023), Ryan Papenhuyzen (2022), Harry Grant (2023) and Nelson Asofa-Solomona (2023).
But lock forward Dale Finucane and Jahrome Hughes are two players off contract at the end of next year and would attract plenty of interest from rival clubs. Felise Kaufusi is another star back-rower with an option in his favour for 2022.
Josh Addo-Carr’s early release will free up some further salary cap space, but Melbourne are digging their heels in and will only release the representative winger should they land a top-shelf winger.
A player like David Nofoaluma at the Wests Tigers – Addo-Carr’s likely destination – remains at the top of the Storm’s wish list.
The club have since signed George Jennings from Parramatta, halfback Jonah Pezet from Newcastle while there are also high hopes for Brisbane schoolboys’ rugby prodigy Jack Howarth.
Like the Sydney Roosters, the Storm face the little issue of developing young players to the point they become so good – and appealing to top rivals – they are forced to pay a premium to keep their own talent.
While some of the best-paid players in the game take home around $1.2 million each season, including Queensland pair Daly Cherry-Evans and Ben Hunt, Smith has pocketed around $800,000 in recent years, but more than covered any shortfall with third-party deals.
The Storm are genuinely none the wiser when it comes to Smith’s next move. They know it will not be reached before next Sunday.
A loss could tempt the ultra-competitive dummy-half to go around one more year.
In good news for Melbourne, Brandon Smith was cleared of any serious injury after complaining of double vision against Canberra.
The Storm will fly to Sydney on Saturday after their captain’s run on the Sunshine Coast. They will only be allowed stay the one night in NSW before their flight back in the early hours of Monday.
Storm players will remain on the Sunshine Coast until lunchtime Wednesday, 123 days after re-locating from Melbourne because of COVID-19 restrictions.
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Christian covers rugby league for The Sydney Morning Herald.