Big money deal will keep Munster in Melbourne
CAMERON Munster is the new King of Melbourne, with the Queensland Origin ace to ink a $3.6 million contract to spearhead the Storm in the post-Cameron Smith era.
The Sunday Mail can reveal the off-contract Munster has shunned the opportunity to test his value on the open market and instead verbally agreed to a four-year upgrade with the Storm.
The new deal keeps Munster at the Storm until the end of 2023 - ensuring the Maroons pivot will be Melbourne's next poster boy after champion skipper Smith, who is tipped to retire at the end of next year.
Munster had interest from eight clubs, including Parramatta, the Cowboys and Titans, but the Rockhampton product turned down the chance of a Queensland homecoming to remain loyal to the club that signed him as a 17-year-old.
Munster is holidaying overseas and will ink the new deal when he returns to Australia.
Storm football operations chief Frank Ponissi confirmed Melbourne had won the signature for one of the code's most sought-after players in a major retention coup for the 2018 grand finalists.
"We're thrilled that Cameron will be staying," Ponissi said.
"We will finalise the deal in the next week or so. We're not far away.
"It was playing on Cam's mind a bit so he wanted to get the deal done.
"Cameron saw me and Craig Bellamy (Storm coach) a few weeks before the finals and said I have no intention of going anywhere, but I don't want to sort out my future until the end of the season so I can focus on the finals.
"There's been a lot of speculation about several clubs chasing him and Cameron was worried we might get the wrong idea, but I understand it's a compliment for his ability and it's understandable if clubs are genuinely interested.
"Cameron has handled the whole process well but we're glad he will have a long-term future with the Storm."
The Storm would not be drawn on figures but it is understood Munster has sacrificed about $400,000 to stay in Melbourne.
The 24-year-old was capable of earning $1 million a season on the open market, but has accepted an estimated $900,000 annually to pledge his future to the Storm.
It has been a difficult time for Munster. He stood down from the Australian team a fortnight ago on compassionate grounds following the tragic death of one of his closest mates from Rockhampton.
Ponissi praised Munster's off-field transformation. Last December, the Kangaroos star privately told the Storm he had a problem with alcohol and Australia coach Mal Meninga warned Munster his Test career was in jeopardy.
"I've seen a greater maturity from Cameron this season - he has come a long way," Ponissi said.
"Cameron went through some tough times this time last year but in terms of his day-to-day approach to football, he wasn't a problem at all.
"'Bellyache' (Bellamy) had to give him a bit of a kick up the backside in regards to his preparation, but Cameron has come a hell of a long way in the last 12 months.
"We can't be happier with his development.
"This next deal will keep Cameron here for a number of years and enable him to grow as a leader at our club."