Yes we Cam: Broncos ‘in hunt’ for NRL’s biggest signature
Brisbane have formally approached Cameron Smith with coach Kevin Walters revealing the Broncos have the salary-cap space to fund a poaching raid on the Storm champion.
Breaking his silence on the Smith saga, Walters confirmed the Broncos are "in the hunt" for the 430-game legend - the first public admission from any NRL rival that they are bidding to keep the Melbourne great in rugby league this season.
"Cam is aware we are interested," Walters said.
The Sunday Mail can reveal Smith has fielded a series of approaches from Brisbane, with the NRL's most-capped player having held informal talks with Walters when the latter ascended to the Broncos coaching job just before Christmas.
The Broncos have since upped the ante, with Brisbane hierarchy using a third-party associate to make ongoing contact with Smith as they look to orchestrate one of the biggest recruitment raids in the club's 33-year history.
At this stage, the Broncos have not tabled an offer for Smith. They are waiting for the 37-year-old to make a definitive call on his future - expected this week - and if Smith decides to play on for a 20th consecutive season, Brisbane will begin formal negotiations.
Brisbane's Queensland rivals, the Titans, claim they have not reached out to Smith, who now lives on the Gold Coast, but Walters has cut through months of wild speculation to officially declare the Broncos' interest.
"A player of Cam's quality doesn't come around very often," Walters said.
"We're not really sure if we can get him. It's a bit of a mystery for everyone.
"Obviously he is a great player and a great leader and every club in the NRL, if they had the space in their (salary) cap, would cater for him.
"Every club would love to have him on their books and for all we know he could still be running out for the Storm this season.
"We just don't know what will happen … but we'll stay in the hunt."
Walters has inherited the worst-performing team in Broncos history, but feels the signing of Smith would turn the reigning wooden-spooners into a genuine contender for the finals.
While there is a sentiment Smith will retire a one-club servant, Brisbane have tweaked their roster in the event the former Queensland Origin captain opts to play for the Broncos outfit that tried to sign him as a teenager.
The Broncos have a buffer in their cap of around $600,000.
They have two vacancies left on their 30-man roster, one created last week by Andrew McCullough's departure to the Dragons, leaving Brisbane short one hooker. Smith's signing would solve that problem.
The Broncos have privately discussed the permutations of Smith's move to Red Hill. One option is for Smith to miss the opening month of the NRL premiership to get himself match fit for the rest of the year.
That scenario would mean the Broncos only have to pay Smith seven months' wages under the 2021 salary cap. Based on Smith's notional annual salary of $1 million, he would be valued at around $580,000 for a seven-month deal.
Asked if the Broncos can fit Smith into their salary cap this season, Walters said: "Yes. I believe we have the salary cap space to fit him in.
"We aren't putting all our eggs in one basket, but we'll roll with the punches and wherever it lands, it lands.
"We're none the wiser (about Smith's decision), so we'll sit back and watch it all unfold, that's all we can do."
Broncos heavy-hitters are mindful that Smith's signing would not only help on the field, but inject millions into the club via off-field branding, marketing and corporate sponsorships.
Brisbane hierarchy are also confident that if Smith soldiers on, he will choose the Broncos ahead of the Titans.
Speaking at a function on the Sunshine Coast on Friday, Smith told guests he still hadn't ruled out playing on - four months after captaining the Storm to their premiership defeat of the Panthers.
"I've got a big decision to make," Smith said.
"We will see. I can't leave my house without someone wondering where I'm going. I went to kick the footy down at the local club the other day and there was a front-page story the next day saying I had signed with the Titans.
"It's a strange one. I feel physically really good. I still enjoy footy. I enjoy training and enjoy being part of a team, but I've got a big decision to make."
Originally published as Yes we Cam: Broncos 'in hunt' for NRL's biggest signature