Storm icon Cameron Smith has urged the NRL to reconsider the punishment for the club's infamous salary cap rorting after Cronulla emerged from their own scandal without losing their 2016 title.
Melbourne lost two premierships, another three minor premierships and had to play out the 2010 season for no points – on top of a $1.7 million fine – when head office uncovered the club's systematic breaches almost a decade ago.
The Storm were found to have rorted the cap by $3.7 million over five years, while the investigation into Cronulla found around $750,000 in illegal third party agreements were set up through a company endorsed by the Sharks board.
The NRL found that the majority of the Cronulla’s TPAs were not paid, while the Sharks had $500,000 of a $1.25 million fine suspended thanks to CEO Barry Russell's self-reporting.
Melbourne have won two titles since their salary cap scandal and gone on to become the most professional outfit in the game.
But the swift and brutal nature of the club's cap punishments almost a decade ago haven't been forgotten, or matched in penalties since handed down to Parramatta, Manly and Cronulla in recent years.
Smith said the NRL "may find a different outcome" if head office were to revisit the penalties against the club, which the Storm captain says were handed down within two days by then-CEO David Gallop.
"The clear difference for me is that there is a fair bit of time put into gathering all the evidence, the emails, all that sort of stuff, and they haven’t made a decision after what was just 48 hours like ours," Smith said at the NRL launch on Thursday.
"They have put a bit of time and thought into the punishment handed down to Cronulla. It hasn’t happened in the space of two days.
"As far as looking at what happened at Cronulla and having the understanding of what I know happened at our club, it sounds quite similar, yet we were made to play an entire season without points and had premierships taken off us.
"It is almost like the same or similar crime with a completely different punishment. If you look over the course of time from 2010 to now there are a handful of clubs that have been over the salary cap by similar amounts and they haven’t been made to sit out a season or not play for points.
"They have been deducted four points, they have been deducted two points.
"For me, the main difference I have seen in the new administration, and that is Todd [Greenberg] being involved, is that he has taken the correct amount of time to go through all the information gathered and come to the correct decision then, rather than seeing a club breach the salary cap and then wielding the axe."
Cronulla will have to shed at least one player before the start of the 2019 season to be cap compliant, and will operate at $353,000 below their rivals both this year and next as part of their punishment.
Club officials are hopeful a resolution could be reached as early as the weekend, with prop Ava Seumanafagai weighing up an offer from Leeds Rhinos.