Smith backs Storm snub, eyes World Club Challenge return


Melbourne Storm captain Cameron Smith is supportive of his club's decision to opt out of next year's World Club Series, but hopes to play in England as an NRL champion in 2018.

Runners-up to Cronulla Sharks in the NRL Grand Final, the Storm confirmed earlier this month that they had turned down the opportunity to participate in the annual event between teams from Australia and England, in order to prepare sufficiently for the new NRL campaign.

Smith twice featured in World Club Challenges - the contests that bring together the champions from the NRL and Super League - before the event was expanded to include additional matches.

Following Melbourne's snub, it was announced last week that the 2017 WCS will comprise only two games - as opposed to three in each of the previous two years - with Brisbane Broncos joining Cronulla in heading to England.

At Monday's Four Nations launch at Anfield, Australia skipper Smith told Omnisport: "I've been lucky enough to be involved in two World Club Challenges - that was back when just the two premiers played each other and I think that's a great concept.

"Given the scheduling around the games we play now down in Australia, with our pre-season tournaments, end-of-year touring and State of Origin as well, I think clubs and particularly coaches are quite mindful of the amount of games that players are playing at the moment.

"I believe that's the reason our club opted out of coming over. We've got a handful of guys involved in this tournament here now, we're going to be involved in a pretty hectic pre-season schedule also, so it's going to be hard to prepare for the season as it is without coming over to England.

"So I support the club's decision not to come over, but hopefully in 2017 we can win the competition [the NRL] and we'll be over here at the start of 2018."

Asked if the Storm's decision was likely to have been influenced by teams who were involved in last season's WCS making slow starts to the NRL campaign, Smith added: "No doubt - and you talk to the players about that. They find it difficult to start the season well [after] coming over and playing.

"From my personal experience, I've enjoyed the times I've come over here, the start of 2010 and the start of 2013 - we played against Leeds both times and I really enjoyed that opportunity. So I think it is important to keep that game going where the two premiers of each competition play each other.

"But this time we've opted out as runners-up. As I said, hopefully we win next year and come over."