Many pundits wondered why the Storm prioritized re-signing Jahrome Hughes over his half partner Cameron Munster, but the numbers paint a clear picture.
Hughes signed a new contract in March that will keep him with the club until the end of 2026 with a deal worth more than $800,000 per season.
Around the same time, Munster — who has $1.2 million next year — rejected an offer for 2024 and 2025 worth $750,000 per season.
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The lowball offer angered some former Storm players who thought Munster was being disrespected, especially as Wayne Bennett’s Dolphins put a long-term deal worth about $1.25 million a season on the table.
Melbourne has since increased their offer to three years, but it is clear the money is nowhere near the Dolphins and no deal has been signed.
Craig Bellamy’s men have had a rough time over the past two weeks without Hughes (calf) and superstar fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen (hamstring) – who is signed until 2025.
They lost by a combined score of 68-12 against the Panthers and Cowboys, who are both in glowing form.
Munster played in the games and struggled to pull the strings in the same sparkly fashion he did with Hughes when they destroyed teams in the first nine rounds.
The latest results have stunned onlookers, but perhaps they weren’t so shocking to Melbourne’s list managers, who would no doubt have looked to Munster and Hughes’ respective win records when considering who should prioritize re-signing.
Hughes has enjoyed a staggering number of successes since breaking through at the start of the Storm in the second half of 2018 – the club’s first season in 14 years without Cooper Cronk.
Melbourne won 82.8 percent of games while Hughes played and that record drops to 59.3 percent without him.
Since 2018, the Storm have won 76 percent of their matches with Munster and 83.3 percent without him.
During the same period, Hughes played 15 games without Munster, winning 14 (93.3 percent), while Munster won nine of the 15 games (62.5 percent) without Hughes.
The playmakers are both 27 – born less than a month apart – and still have plenty of football in them.
But the Storm chose Hughes.
The knock on Munster is that he can’t stand up for the run-of-the-mill games, especially in the period between Origin and the Finals when the Storm’s top four are secured.
The counter argument is that Munster delivers when it matters – when premierships are at stake, the club’s history is sculpted.
Each round is worth two match points, but not all wins are equal, a point emphasized by Munster’s agent Braith Anasta.
“Hughes is a great player and extremely consistent and crucial to the success of the Storm,” said Anasta foxsports.com.au.
“Cameron has worked hard on his consistency and this year he certainly has.
“Cameron is the best big game player on the side. He likes big moments under pressure in big games when it matters most.
“That’s just as valuable and important, if not more so.”
In another tell-tale sign of how the Storm rendition Munster, Papenhuyzen (2025) and whore Harry Grant (2025) also re-signed on big-money deals that lay ahead of him.
Rugby legend Laurie Daley thinks the past two weeks have shown why the club focused on Hughes, Papenhuyzen and Grant.
Daley stressed that the past two weeks should serve as a ‘wake-up’ call for Munster in the midst of his contract negotiations.
“A lot of people questioned Melbourne because she didn’t sign Munster first. They wondered ‘why did you sign Papenhuyzen, why did you sign Hughes and why did you sign Grant?’ Big sports breakfast.
“I think in recent weeks we may have seen the reason why. Because they are more important to the team than Munster.
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“Munster is more of an individual player. Can he bring out the best in other players? I wonder if that was part of why they signed these other guys first.
“Cameron Munster, if you put him there, he’s a million dollar player every day of the week and he would still be a million dollar player depending on what system he’s in, but the last few For weeks you’d sit back if you’re Craig Bellamy and think ‘Jesus, we need to get a little more out of you Cameron without these players around.
“I think it’s a bit of a wake-up call for all of them and Cam Munster in particular as there’s no denying he’s among the best 4-5 players in the game and when it’s his turn , he might be the best.
“I think they would want a little more out of Cam if those players aren’t on the team, and I think we might see Cam Munster explode again in the coming weeks.”
The black and white answer for Munster is to take the $500,000 more on offer in Queensland from 2024 and reboot with his one-time Maroons coach Bennett.
But there are other factors to consider.
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It’s unlikely Bennett will implement the same ban on his marquee, meaning Munster’s discipline will have to come from within in a town where he’ll be treated like a rock star
Plus, there’s almost no chance he’ll enjoy the same success on the pitch if he joins Redcliffe for just their second season in the NRL.
Munster was born to finals football, which he’s played every season since joining the Storm in 2014 — a streak that even supercoach Bennett will have a hard time continuing.
If Munster struggles to get up for a round 23 match on the Gold Coast with Melbourne second on the ladder how will he fare to play proudly with the Dolphins.
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Paul Kent said on NRL 360 that the Storm has “suddenly become a very average football team” without Hughes and Papenhuyzen.
But Melbourne legend Cameron Smith went a step further and believes the Storm has stopped competing.
“Craig Bellamy can take it if he is beaten or outplayed by the opposition. But when a team outdoes the competition, it gets angry,” Smith said on SEN.
“There were a handful of players who just stopped competing.
“There was a point in that game where he realized Melbourne had no chance of winning that game.
“That’s the part in question. The last two weeks, especially now that Papenhuyzen and Hughes have left, they have lost their way a bit.
“Maybe they didn’t go as well as a lot of people thought they were.”
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