MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – AUGUST 31: Cameron Smith of the Storm look dejected after defeat after defeat during the round 25 NRL match between the Melbourne Storm and the Penrith Panthers at AAMI Park on August 31, 2018 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – AUGUST 31: Cameron Smith of the Storm look dejected after defeat after defeat during the round 25 NRL match between the Melbourne Storm and the Penrith Panthers at AAMI Park on August 31, 2018 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

Smith: Players weren’t fighting for money

Melbourne Storm champion Cameron Smith has furiously denied claims that player greed had threatened to stall the NRL premiership resumption.

"Let's get the show back on," he declared to The Sunday Telegraph, "I can't stress enough how keen players are at all clubs to get back to training and kick-off on May 28."

In an exclusive interview that explains the players' position, Smith insists there was never the threat of a player revolt or a pay dispute.

"We're acutely aware of what's happening in the community in different industries and businesses," he said, "People have taken pay cuts and lost their jobs. There's a lot of pain out there.

"Our fans have been suffering and, if getting the footy back helps, we can't wait."

There had been much community backlash over speculation of a pay war while NRL bosses Peter V'landys and Andrew Abdo thrash out a new TV broadcast deal with Channel 9 and Fox Sports.

Smith insists this was never the case and understands the game is faced with losing up to $80 million from the networks this year.

"It was disappointing it was presented as a player revolt and a pay dispute," said the 413-game veteran, "At no stage were the players going to refuse to turn up.

"I think 80 per cent (of our contracts) is fair. We provide the product but we're going back to 20 rounds. We get that.

"We get that times are tough and we understand the NRL doesn't have a broadcast deal so there's no money coming in. This was all about getting clarification on many issues that are going to affect us and our families."

 

 

Smith admits there were serious issues that needed clarification before a phone hook-up on Friday with V'landys smoothed over most of their concerns.

The sticking points were more about the strict isolation rules and access players would have to their families and friends.

"We've got a lot of confidence in Peter moving forward," Smith said, "It was a positive discussion and we appreciate how hard he's working to get the best outcome for the game.

"Yes, we spoke about money and had questions about the retirement fund, the hardship fund and how we're going to distribute money back into those this year."

 

Players are frustrated at reports of greediness. Photo: Brendon Thorne/Getty Images
Players are frustrated at reports of greediness. Photo: Brendon Thorne/Getty Images

 

He says the delays in getting answers and clarity from the NRL has been the biggest issue for players.

"We put forward these requests for information more than four weeks ago but hadn't had any answers," he said, "We didn't think it was unreasonable. We were in the dark on so many things.

"You think about it. It sounds like we'll be all locked up in the house. You go to training. You finish then you're straight back in the house and that's it.

"We don't know how long this will be the case. Two days, two weeks or four months.

"It's such a moving story and we understand the difficulty in locking it down.

"But over the last few days we're hearing isolation restrictions are going to be loosened to allow the general public to meet up in small groups at shops and things like that.

"But for NRL players, the protocols are only going to tighten."

 

There are issues outside the footy for players to consider. Photo: Daniel Pockett/Getty Images
There are issues outside the footy for players to consider. Photo: Daniel Pockett/Getty Images

 

The former Kangaroos captain and Maroons legend said players, in the worst case scenario, were always going to be reluctant to leave their families to be interstate and in isolation.

"Personally it's a difficult one with three kids doing home schooling at the moment," he said.

"Any parent would understand the difficulties and challenges around that. It would be really hard. "But credit to Storm because they've been looking at ways for families to travel with us under strict guidelines if it had came to that."

On his own future, the 36-year-old remains undecided. The decision is probably eight weeks away.

"I've only played two games so I feel as fresh as," he said, "I'm feeling great. I reckon I'll have a fair idea by the halfway mark. We'll see where the body and mind's at and I'll lean on Craig (Bellamy) to get his thoughts."

 

 

Originally published as Smith: Players weren't fighting for money


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