'Paul should worry about Cronulla': Storm, Sharks butt heads over salary cap
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'Paul should worry about Cronulla': Storm, Sharks butt heads over salary cap

It's on again.

Just days before the NRL season kicks off, the bitter rivalry between Cronulla and Melbourne has been set alight once again over comments made by Cameron Smith and Paul Gallen regarding the severity of the punishment handed to the Sharks for rorting the salary cap between 2013 and 2018.

Sharks skipper Paul Gallen has warned Storm's Cameron Smith to be careful what he wishes for over stripping Cronulla of premierships bacause of salary-cap rorts.

Sharks skipper Paul Gallen has warned Storm's Cameron Smith to be careful what he wishes for over stripping Cronulla of premierships bacause of salary-cap rorts.Credit:AAP

The fire was first stoked by Smith on Thursday, when he urged the NRL to re-visit the sizeable penalties Melbourne were hit with after they were found to have systematically cheated the salary cap to the tune of $3.7 million over five years.

While Smith didn't suggest Cronulla should be tarred with the same brush, Gallen clearly took the comments to be in that vein and returned serve on Channel Nine's Sports Sunday.

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"I will say this to Cam, be very careful what you wish for," Gallen said.

"We went in and self-reported a $50,000 discrepancy, which the CEO [Barry Russell] thought was all it was. It turned out it was a $700,000 discrepancy.

"You maybe don't want the NRL going back and searching those books, particularly when they [Melbourne] were found to be $3.7 million over the salary cap over five years.

"Three of those years they were a million over the cap.

"Compared to the Sharks, we were 750k over in intended third-party payments, the NRL found they were intended to be paid. Not all were paid."

Gallen continued, going so far as to say he would quit rugby league altogether if Cronulla were to be stripped of their 2016 premiership.

"If we got it taken off us I would throw my ring away and I would quit the club immediately," he said.

"This is what frustrates me about situations like this and situations before that we have had at the club.

"It’s not my job as a player to go and ask how much you earn, or whether you get a third party, or where you get it from him - that’s not my job.

"It’s the administration’s job to do it.

"We have been let down by the administration once again but who cops it? The players.

"Who is sitting here answering questions here? Me, the captain of the club."

Gallen's comments caught the eye of Storm CEO Dave Donaghy, who highlighted the important fact that Smith did not actually suggest the Sharks should be stripped of their premiership.

"I think Paul should worry about Cronulla,” Donaghy said while at the Storm’s family day on Sunday.

"I missed the show and the comments but it’s important to put Cam’s comments into context.

"He wasn’t coming out saying Cronulla’s premiership should be stripped. What it’s saying is drawing a comparison between recent clubs who have had salary cap strife have been treated as opposed to how Melbourne were treated back in the day.

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"There is a different view around salary cap sanctions [now] and we think that’s the right view.

"What happened back in the day was vastly different to how some clubs have been treated."

The rivalry remains fierce between the two clubs, who have accused one another of dirty tactics and exchanged several verbal barbs in many fiery clashes since 2015.

James Segeyaro has been part of a handful of those fiery clashes and there remains some hope he could remain at Cronulla.

It has been suggested the hooker would be the sacrificial lamb as the Sharks search for a way to sneak under the salary cap before round one but sources close to the 28-year-old have told the Herald he will stay in the Shire.

Exactly how Segeyaro could remain a Cronulla player remains to be seen but the likely path would be through a NSWRL contract with Sharks feeder-club the Newtown Jets.

He could then return to Cronulla’s top-30 roster once the club loses shells another player or is able to free up space in their cap.

It's understood Parramatta are all but out of the race for his signature.

Sam is a sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.

Roy Ward is a Sports writer for The Age.

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