Melbourne Storm legend Cameron Smith may have accidentally divulged the biggest bombshell of his tell-all book in a simple statement that’s gone unnoticed in the storm of drama that has followed his autobiography promotional tour.
Smith has this week dominated the NRL news agenda with swirling controversies surrounding false rumours of an affair with Fox League star Yvonne Sampson, his falling out with Channel 9, his dead relationship with former teammate Cooper Cronk and claims the NRL unfairly annihilated the Storm following an investigation which found the club had systematically cheated the NRL salary cap.
Now, a new claim could propel another NRL investigation surrounding payments Storm players have received.
There were calls on Saturday for the league to launch another investigation into the Melbourne Storm’s accounts after Smith opened up on “deferred payments” he has received during his career.
Smith casually addresses the subject in the autobiography, After The Storm, launched this week.
In the chapter titled ‘The Damage Done’ Smith reveals he routinely made sacrifices for the club after being told the Storm were under salary cap pressure to keep it’s star-studded roster together.
He writes he accepted deferred payments. The promise of future payments has been outlawed in the NRL since 2010 when the Storm’s cap scandal erupted.
The ambiguous wording of Smith’s statement left the door open for Melbourne to have continued with the payment system beyond its day of reckoning with the NRL salary cap auditors.
“On many occasions throughout my career, the club told me they were under the salary cap pressure, and asked me to make small personal sacrifices by deferring payments, which I agreed to,” Smith writes in the book.
“The club always came first. I assume similar variations happened with my teammates as well and other players across the game.
“From my perspective, I knew I had actually sacrificed payments, not received extra money, which made me even more confident I’d done nothing wrong, even inadvertently.
“And I hadn’t. The problem was that it took more than 12 months of investigation by the NRL to clear the players’ names. By then the mud thrown at us had well and truly stuck.”
The Daily Telegraph’s Paul Kent wrote on Saturday, Smith’s admission could leave him out of favour with Storm officials.
The book revelations should also lead to a fresh NRL investigation, the Fox League NRL 360 host wrote:
Deferred payments are illegal in the NRL. They have been since the Storm was stripped in 2010.
NRL boss Andrew Abdo said on Friday the NRL believes Smith was talking about the period when the Storm was stripped of its premierships.
“The Storm, like every club, get audited and we have got a pretty slick team around it now,” he said.
Still, with every word hard to trust, it appears the NRL has no choice but to have a deeper look.
There is also a fresh appeal to have the handling of the Storm’s cap scandal and penalties re-examined, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
It was revealed on Saturday morning that ex-Storm chairman Rob Moodie and former director Peter Maher are planning to lodge a submission with the current NRL administration.
The submission seeks to have the handling of the saga re-examined amid legal advice that the NRL did not abide by its own rules.
The Storm will reportedly challenge the severity of the punishment, after recent cap scandals surrounding Parramatta and Cronulla were not handles with the same bluntness showed by the previous NRL administration under former CEO David Gallop.
The Storm claim the NRL violated its own bylaws by failing to give the Storm a five-day notice to submit its response to the NRL’s finding that the club had cheated the cap.
In Smith’s autobiography he claims the NRL punished the Storm before completing a thorough investigation.
Gallop branded Smith’s claim as “plain wrong” this week.
He said Melbourne’s case was “under investigation for months”.
Smith is still refusing to go quietly.