Munster waiting for Bellamy decision as Cowboys option looms

Cameron Munster has put aside a turbulent off-season and has arguably been Melbourne's best performer during the first nine rounds of the competition.

NRL.com revealed in the pre-season that the Storm were growing tired of his off-field antics. There has been a notable improvement in that department, but his future beyond next season remains up in the air.

The Storm, who recently pulled a long-term offer off the table, are now trying to extend Munster's contract beyond his current deal which expires at the end of 2019, and have always hoped he would lead the club into the post-big three era when Cameron Smith and Billy Slater follow Cooper Cronk in calling time on their Melbourne careers.

Those ambitions diminished during the off-season but when you consider the change in his attitude, as well as the underwhelming performance of Brodie Croft to start the year, the Storm understand the importance of Munster to the club.

Despite recently purchasing a property in Melbourne's Yarraville, he is reluctant to commit to the club until he knows what coach Craig Bellamy is doing.

NRL.com has been told there has been correspondence between North Queensland and Munster about returning to his home state to play fullback for the Cowboys.

This is not in breach of the NRL rules. The Cowboys are entitled to talk with Munster even though he has 18 months to run on his contract, however they are unable to table him a formal offer until November 1 or the Storm grant him permission.

Munster is from Rockhampton and has friends and family close by. The Cowboys are also likely to have plenty of salary cap space considering the expected retirement of Johnathan Thurston at the end of the year.

The Cowboys, who have also been linked to Valentine Holmes, didn't deny they'd been in dialogue with Munster when asked by NRL.com, but a lot could hinge on what Bellamy decides to do when his contract expires at the end of this season.

Munster shares an open and honest relationship with Bellamy, and while at times that has been strained, the Storm, Queensland and Australian representative has plenty of respect for his coach and an appreciation for what he has done to help maximise his rare talent.

The Storm opted to withdraw their a long-term extension because they wanted to ensure they were making the right decision.

It was the right decision at the time, especially when you consider Munster recently admitted in an interview with The Courier-Mail that he has some off-field issues and had "carried on like a d---head" over the off-season and during the World Cup.

There are a lot of interested clubs keeping a close eye on Munster's situation.

The Wests Tigers are on the lookout for a fullback and under the guidance of coach Ivan Cleary would likely back themselves to get the best out of him.

Ponga a steal for Knights

Newcastle appear to have bagged the bargain of the century nabbing Kalyn Ponga from the Cowboys for $3 million over five years.

Ponga would likely demand close to a million dollars a season if he was off contract at the end of the year.

Knights fullback Kalyn Ponga.
Knights fullback Kalyn Ponga. ©Paul Barkley/NRL Photos

The Cowboys wouldn't be on the lookout for a fullback if they had managed to retain Ponga, but coach Paul Green said they did all they could to keep him at the club.

"We had a huge opinion of Kalyn," Green said.

"Look, we tried to keep him but we couldn't fit everyone in. We would have loved to have kept him but I'm happy for him. He's a good kid ... I think Mitchell Pearce has made a huge impact up there and I think he's really helped Kalyn's game as well."

Families face off

There will be a few families divided over the next couple of weeks.

Nathan Cleary is expected back from injury in time to take on his father's Wests Tigers next weekend, while Benji Marshall will face off with his little brother Jeremy Marshall-King the week after when the Tigers square off against the Bulldogs in round 12.

It's the same match Josh Reynolds is expected back from a shoulder injury, just in time to take on his former club. Penrith fullback Dallin Watene-Zelezniak and his brother Malakai will be the undercard to the Cleary family battle next weekend.

Nothing like Leichhardt for JT

Johnathan Thurston will run out on to the ground where he enjoys playing the least on Thursday night.

North Queensland take on the Wests Tigers at Leichhardt Oval, and in an interview with NRL.com at the start of the year, the Cowboys skipper revealed he hated venturing to Leichhardt.

"Even the 12 year-olds spray me there," he said before breaking into his trademark laugh. The Wests Tigers haven't missed a trick and have been using the vision to promote the match, which will also double as Benji Marshall's first game back at the iconic suburban venue.

The club wanted to use Marshall to promote the match however the five-eighth is hellbent on ending the club's three-game losing streak and didn't want the attention shifted from his team's desire to win on Thursday night.

 

The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARLC, NRL clubs or state associations.