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NRL should bring in cap relief for one-club 300-gamers: Smith

Cameron Smith has floated the introduction of salary cap exemption for "one-club, 300-gamers" to encourage loyalty in an increasingly ruthless NRL market.

Smith is one of just 15 men in the game's history to crack 300 appearances in the same club colours, and wants to see greater allowances made for some of the game's longest and most loyal servants.

Current NRL rules provide for a $200,000 veteran and developed players allowance per club, which breaks down to just 2.2% of each club's $9.1 million salary cap.

Smith has first-hand experience of the wrangles clubs can face with veteran stalwarts, having negotiated a two-year extension with the Storm over several months last year.

Salary cap pressure at the club has resulted in Sam Kasiano joining Super League's Catalans, but Smith's proposal to reward clubs that develop and retain a 300-gamer with a salary cap exemption could ease such complications.

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"To see one club players, to see 300-gamers, It's great for our fans," Smith said.

"It's great for our clubs, it's great for the game. Why not reward those organisations that can achieve that with certain players?"

Asked what amount of exemption he would like to see, the former Australian and Queensland captain suggested a portion of a players' salary starting at a base of 50%.

"It would have to be a percentage wouldn't it? Is it 50%, is it 75%?" Smith said.

"I'm not sure, even if you develop a player and you play 300 matches for the one club, is he exempt from your cap?

"I don't think that's unreasonable given I see that, particularly at a time like now, I see that as a positive story for our game.:

Such an exemption would give a sizeable, six-figure cap advantage to any team boasting a one-club triple centurion.

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If Smith's own estimated $1 million pay packet was halved the Storm would have an extra $500,000 to spend, not to mention the unprecedented scenario in which he, Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk were at the one club with a triple century under their respective belts.

But to balance that scenario, none of the five players in touching distance of the 300-game mark this year – Darius Boyd (292 appearances), Adam Blair, Benji Marshall (both 289), Gavin Cooper (284) and Robbie Farah (282) – would be eligible under Smith's proposal as they have all played for more than one NRL outfit.

Of the game's recent 300-gamers, Smith, Slater, Paul Gallen, Sam Thaiday, Simon Mannering and John Sutton reached the tally playing for one club.

The Rabbitohs and Sutton also navigated uncertainty around his 2019 contract last year as the club balanced an improving roster with retaining a club icon.

For Smith, that is the crux of his proposal, with Wests Tigers veteran Chris Lawrence tossed up as the type of player any loyalty relief should target.

The 30-year-old has racked up 227 games since graduating to first grade as a Campbelltown junior, weathering all manner of controversies at the club along the way.

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A severe facial fracture suffered during last week's trial loss to the Warriors threatens to sideline him for up to four months in a year when he is off contract, raising the possibility of the Tigers' favourite son being forced elsewhere.

"Chris Lawrence - perfect example," Smith said.

"[The prospect of him being squeezed out of the Tigers] that's sad I think. Whether he's forced out of the club and has to play somewhere else or you send the bloke overseas, out of our game entirely.

"We should be trying to retain our players in the game and for guys that have played so many seasons for the one club, let's try and help that guy achieve his goal of being a one-club player."

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