Storm Forward To Replace Jack de Belin?

The Melbourne Storm are reportedly over the salary cap for 2019, after re-signing their captain Cameron Smith on a 2-year multi-million dollar deal.

It is understood the Storm are looking to offload some players to remain under salary cap before the round 1 kick off which is less than two weeks away.

Sam Kasiano is firming as the likely storm player to be squeezed out and is understood  set to replace Jack de Belin should St George Illawarra gain a salary cap exemption for the Blues lock.

The NRL on Thursday stood down de Belin, who became the first player to face that action under changes to the game’s disciplinary policy regarding players charged with serious crimes. De Belin has pleaded not guilty to a charge of aggravated sexual assault and will mount a legal challenge against Todd Greenbergs new hardline stance.

If unsuccessful, the Dragons have the option of applying for salary cap dispensation while de Belin’s case remains before the courts. They currently only have $100,000 remaining in their salary cap for 2019 and there are few viable forward replacements for de Belin.

Kasino is contracted for this year and next but the Storm are desperate to squeeze him out to ease salary cap pressures. The New Zealand and Samoan international is on a deal worth $600,000 a year but such is Melbourne’s need to get him off the books that they would consider subsidising him to the tune of almost $500,000 for this year if another club made up the difference.

The former Dally M prop of the year would give Dragons coach Paul McGregor a replacement of representative quality until de Belin’s fate is determined.

“We understand and support the commission’s desire to improve the standards of player behaviour and propagate the game,” said Dragons chief executive Brian Johnston.

“This is a very complex and difficult issue that impacts many stakeholders. To date we have been guided by the NRL rules and code of conduct, in addition to advice suggesting any action taken by the club could interfere with the judicial process.

“Given the change today, we need time to digest this information and consider the implications for our club. Duty of care has always been a priority for us and we have great concern for Jack’s welfare. We will continue to provide him with the necessary support and welfare he needs throughout this legal process.

“I would also like to take this opportunity to thank our stakeholders, including sponsors, members and fans for their support of our process.”