Storm screwed up the Munster deal? Are rabbits a real deal? The Broncos make numbers?

Melbourne’s botched negotiations with Cameron Munster have the potential to not only drown out their final hopes, but also cost them arguably the best player of the game.

The Storm are facing a salary cap squeeze, meaning they haven’t been able to come close to Munster’s asking price. Why don’t they have the funds? Because they clearly spent too much on other players.

Munster are in the NRL Most Valuable Player conversation alongside Nathan Cleary and James Tedesco and the Storm are said to have set aside the necessary funds to extend his contract beyond the end of next year.

If that meant not signing Xavier Coates or re-signing Jahrome Hughes, Harry Grant or Ryan Papenhuzen, then so be it. They are all very good players, Munster is a big one and at 27 he still has the potential to become even better.

When Cameron Smith, Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk were all the same age, the Storm found a way to keep them all… Wait, don’t go down that road, Melbourne. Play it by the books this time, not by two sets of books.

(Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

Munster’s agent Braith Anasta told NRL 360 on Wednesday night that although his client would stay on for a slightly lower offer than their rivals, the Storm were unable to match the considerable sums that would come from rival clubs and he would test the market. November 1.

“As it stands, it seems very likely at this point that we’ll go to market in November. But things could change by then,” he said. “I think ideally Cameron and I would like them to move more on the salary cap than where they are now.

“That doesn’t mean he won’t sign before because he loves the club. He could sign after November.

His market value will only rise at a rapid pace when deadline day rolls around and it would be a surprise if he didn’t sign a seven-figure-per-season deal a few days later, either with Wayne Bennett. to the Dolphins. or a bunch of other clubs that would move heaven and earth to have it.

Whichever way you look at it, the Storms have snookered themselves as he is unlikely to stay and they will have only themselves to blame.

Here are the burning questions for all 16 teams for Round 23.

Round 23 questions


Rabbitohs vs Panthers, 7:50 p.m. at Accor Stadium

Are rabbits a real deal? Latrell Mitchell’s wobbly left boot on a July Saturday night at Shark Park could prove the difference between another trip to the Grand Finals and a playoff heartache. Mitchell had three golden chances to ice the Round 20 game against Cronulla, but his field goals went astray before Nicho Hynes came on for a 21-20 overtime triumph.

Had the Bunnies won this game, they would be in the top four with three rounds remaining on a seven-game winning streak. Despite bombarding Parramatta 26-0 last week, they are fifth in back-to-back clashes with a trio of legitimate title contenders in Penrith, North Queensland and the Roosters.

Rabbitohs' Cody Walker heads the ball

(Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

They can still make the top four, but the odds are stacked against them. If they lose two or three, they aren’t even guaranteed a place in the final with ninth-placed Canberra facing three other players to complete the regular season. The Rabbitohs can silence any lingering doubts over their title claim if they can add the injured Panthers to their scalping list during Thursday night’s blockbuster at the Accor Stadium to kick off the penultimate, penultimate round.

Is Viliame Kikau the undisputed best second rower in the NRL? It might seem odd to raise this question about a two-time second rower of the year Dally M, but he has always been highly rated even if he hasn’t always achieved that elite status. This year, however, he appears to be involved at a higher rate and more influential in Penrith’s fortunes. They will miss him more than they think next year when he goes to Canterbury.


Cowboys vs. Warriors, 6 p.m. at QCB Stadium

Why is Hammer the odd man out? Every time the Cowboys have had their top six outside backs available this season, Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow has been relegated to the bench utility role. Scott Drinkwater deserves to keep the full-back shirt, Kyle Feldt and Murray Taulagi have been effective on the wings and Valentine Holmes has shone since moving to center left but the Hammer would probably be a better long-term investment as the other center up front veteran Peta Hiku.

Do the Warriors still have gas in the tank? There could be big scores on the Warriors over the next fortnight as they sit out for Cowboys and Panthers before preparing to end the season on a high when they return to Auckland for good in the final round to face the Gold Coast. After three years on the road, player departures and coaches coming through the revolving door, they can hardly be blamed if they don’t give the top two teams much of a challenge.

Broncos vs. Storm, 7:55 p.m. at Suncorp Stadium

Are the Broncos already satisfied with their improvement? They’ve been on a roll over the past few weeks with losses to the Tigers and Roosters and a relatively unconvincing 28-10 win over the hapless Knights last week. They’ve done well to climb to sixth after a wooden spoon and 14th-ranked campaigns over the past two years, but they’ll make playoff appearances unless they start with a strong performance against the Storm.

Was Josh King the bargain of the year? He was as anonymous as an NRL player can be for six seasons at Newcastle and although he didn’t make many headlines in Melbourne he was a valuable addition to Craig Bellamy’s side in his efforts to replace Dale Finucane as the peloton’s designated workaholic. He will play his 100th game in the NRL on Friday.


Eels vs Bulldogs, 3 p.m. at CommBank Stadium

Where did the motivation of the eels go? They couldn’t have been more lethargic had they tried, or hadn’t tried, last week against Souths. In a big game with the Finals standings on the line, Parramatta was truly his Aboriginal translation of “the place where the eels lay down”.

How brutal was the Bulldogs’ offensive turnover? Well, in statistical numbers, he went from 9.6 per game in 10 outings with Trent Barrett at the helm to 26.3 under Mick Potter in 11 outings. And it’s not like it came at the expense of their defensive abilities – they gave up 22.1 points per game before the coaching change and have since allowed a slightly higher 25.1 points, a number that rose unexpectedly last week when they managed to hide 42-18 from the Warriors. in Auckland.

Sea Eagles vs. Sharks, 5:30 p.m. at 4 Pines Park

Talking about Dessie’s disappearance is surely premature? Even if there was a final performance clause for this season in Des Hasler’s contract to trigger an extension in 2024, that doesn’t mean he won’t be there next year. He sometimes escapes criticism from friendly sections of the media, but this time around he has a rather justifiable excuse from reigning Dally M medalist Tom Trbojevic, who has played just seven matches this season. If he’s in good shape next year and the Sea Eagles can’t compete with the big dogs anymore, that’s when Hasler should be nervous.

(Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Can the Sharks make up for Toby Rudolf’s lead? The big prop, who is out until week one of the final after suffering an MCL tear against the Wests Tigers at Tamworth last Saturday, is the only Sharks forward to average more than 100 yards per game. They have plenty of workers but not many yard-eaters in their squad – his absence could hurt their chances of a top-two finish ahead of the Cowboys.

Roosters vs Tigers, 7:35 p.m. at SCG

Are the Roosters able to maintain this offensive turnaround? They have made 34 line breaks in their five-game winning streak, less than seven per game. In their previous 16 outings, they had made 75 with an average of 4.7. They are expected to increase that recent average even further against the Wests Tigers on Saturday night before tougher tests await Melbourne and the Souths.

(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Should the Tigers rest now that Isaiah Papali’i says he’s coming? In a word, no. The Eels striker had several opportunities to publicly put to bed any suggestion that he didn’t want to fulfill his three-year contract and failed to do so. His manager told the Tigers he would report for pre-season training if needed, likely after the World Cup, but that put Tyrone Peachey at the Titans deja vu written all over the place and even if he saw his deal , the Gold Coast barely got its money’s worth from this unfortunate rookie.


Dragons vs. Titans, 2 p.m. at WIN Stadium

Who has improved at the Dragons this year? The club’s talk is that Tyrell Sloan and Jayden Sullivan have barely been spotted at NRL level this season because they’re not ready for the highest quality demands. If so, that’s their calling. But whose stock has improved at St George Illawarra this season – fellow countryman Junior Amone certainly improved after getting an extended run and was their best player in Sunday’s loss to Canberra, Ben Hunt enjoyed a career-best season and Cody Ramsey enhanced his reputation by making it a decent fist at the back. It’s hard to make the case for anyone else of the Dragons who have improved dramatically in 2022.

Justin Holbrook

(Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

Has Holbrook done enough to survive as Titans coach? For the moment at least, he has. With Sam Verrills and Kieran Foran strengthening their backbones next year, he won’t have such excuses if they struggle again, but he should at least have the chance to make amends in 2023.

Knights vs. Raiders, 4:05 p.m. at McDonald Jones Stadium

Why did the Knights make Kalyn Ponga captain? Aside from bathroom escapades, he never showed any real leadership qualities. A seasoned veteran like Tyson Frizell, who isn’t necessarily a big talker either, would have been a better option to lead from the front. Ponga seems too jaded for Newcastle fans to skipper when they have been accustomed to passionate and hard-working captains over the years, dating back to the early days of Sam Stewart and Paul Harragon, through the Andrew Johns era, Danny Buderus and Kurt Gidley.

Are the Raiders still someone’s second favorite team? The ‘weak gutting dog’ Ricky Stuart debacle left a sour taste in the mouths of all the fans who loved to see Canberra beat anyone outside of their own team. The Viking Clap vibes of the 2019 run to the Grand Finals have evaporated faster than you can say from a heartfelt apology.

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