Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy and chief executive Dave Donaghy are among those taking big pay cuts to help keep the club afloat during the NRL shutdown.
Melbourne Storm captain Cameron Smith has called for greater consistency from NRL referees in officiating on the newly outlawed shoulder charge.
While teammate Billy Slater only escaped suspension through an early guilty plea after a hit on North Queensland winger Antonio Winterstein during Saturday night’s game, Smith says he’s already seen a number of other shoulder charges let go this season.
“For me, and I actually spoke to the referees during the game on Saturday night, we were told at the start of the year if there’s any tackle made where there’s no wrapping motion of the arms and it’s just using your shoulder to bump someone, it’s going to be penalised,” Smith said.
“I’ve seen every game that’s been played this year and it’s just been let go, until someone’s hit high or it looks spectacular where someone’s knocked off his feet.”
Smith said he remained confused by the referees and judiciary interpretation of the shoulder charge rule brought in this year after similar incidents went unpunished throughout round two.
On Monday night, South Sydney winger Nathan Merritt was overlooked after a questionable tackle on Cronulla’s Matthew Wright.
“I’m not sure if the rules have changed within the referees where they interpret it differently now but, again, it’s inconsistent,” Smith said.
“Bill’s (Slater) made a similar attempt to tackle as Nathan Merritt and there are two different outcomes.
“That’s the frustrating thing for players and coaches – that inconsistency with rulings.
“If we could have the same things every week for every game there would be no dramas but at the moment it just seems to change every week.”
Smith said he was certain the Storm hierarchy would take up the issue of the disparity in the Slater and Merritt cases with the referees’ boss Daniel Anderson.
Meanwhile, Smith said the Storm were keenly anticipating the return of Canterbury’s Ben Barba, who has been sidelined due to off-field issues.
Bulldogs coach Des Hasler says Barba will not be rushed into the side for Thursday’s NRL grand final rematch at AAMI Park but Smith says the sooner the star fullback returns the better for the game.
“We’re going to prepare as if he’s going to be playing,” Smith said.
“It will be good for our game if he’s there, it will be good for the crowd if he’s there because he’s one of the guys in our competition who people pay money to come and watch.
“But if he’s not then hopefully he’s back on the paddock soon and everything is sorted out with him,” Smith said.