Amid speculation that multiple Melbourne Storm stars could join Wayne Bennett’s Dolphins, Craig Bellamy has put his foot down.
Wayne Bennett and the Dolphins have been warned.
While a host of Storm stars may be on the hit list, Craig Bellamy has promised to lock down the Melbourne players hired from leaving early for the new franchise.
Bennett, who is expected to sign a three-year contract with the Redcliffe-based club shortly, has spoken publicly about his desire to build a team with a “Queensland look.”
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Storm, in fifth-eighth place, Cameron Munster would be a target along with his Origin teammates Christian Welch, Felise Kaufusi and Harry Grant.
Brandon Smith has also become linked to the new franchise as he looks to make a big decision about his future.
Welch, Kaufusi and Smith are out of contract at the end of 2022, while Grant has a mutual option for 2023.
Munster is still signed for the 2023 season and the Dolphins may have a difficult time securing his signature if Bellamy’s warning is something to go through.
“If they want someone who’s still under contract, they won’t leave unless we get them something,” Bellamy said to the Sydney morning herald.
“I’m not even sure what they can give us because they don’t have players.
“We are not just giving away a player who fits into our system. And everyone at the Storm agrees with that opinion. “
Whether Munster fits into that system remains to be seen, with the fifth-eighth eliminated from the leadership group and nearly fired over the ‘white matter’ drama.
Bellamy knows that Munster has previously spoken about the possibility of returning home to Queensland, but noted that the Dolphins “are not destined to get close to our players until November 1.”
“If they are not doing it publicly, they are probably doing it privately.”
Regardless, Bellamy said he can rely on Melbourne’s systems and success on the field to give the club a chance to compete with any potential offer.
“They (the Dolphins) will have a lot of money,” he said.
“If players are tempted by money, they have a good chance of getting it. But there are other things besides money for some people. “
Bennett confirmed earlier in the week that he would “certainly view” Munster as a target for the new franchise should he be “available or wanting to go home.”
“Cameron is someone for whom I have great admiration,” he said. News Corp.
“Mainly, the Dolphins will want a Queensland look, but you always have to sign the best players and Cameron ticks both boxes.”
Munster himself said News Corp in August he was open to play on the expansion side with Bennett.
“I’m sure I’ll consider it,” Munster said at the time.
“I know Wayne would be very interested in coaching a second team from Brisbane. He told me at Origin camp (last November) that he is interested in a second team from Brisbane, so it would be a very competitive team if Wayne were in charge.
“It is a great decision for me.
“The Storm are a great club and they gave me my first chance to play for the NRL.
“I’m a pretty loyal guy and I will definitely give them a chance to hold me back, but with the arrival of the new Brisbane team, it will be a difficult conversation.”
Speaking of difficult conversations, Rabbitohs CEO Blake Solly said earlier in the week that he hopes there is no need for any with Bennett amid fears of a poaching bust.
Cody Walker has been featured as a potential target for the franchise, but Solly told him News Corp he was sure he had got on with Bennett.
“I think the three years with Wayne it has never been about agreements, it has always been about relationships between Wayne and the club,” he told News Corp.
“We would never want to depend on that deal and we think Wayne would feel the same way.”
While the Dolphins may have a fight on their hands to secure any player signed by Storm or Rabbitohs, it looks like Eels star Reagan Campbell-Gillard could be heading north.
His management confirmed earlier in the week that they will not take their option in 2023 and will instead go to the open market, with the Dolphins “in the equation.”