Melbourne Storm are exploring options to grant Josh Addo-Carr an early release from his contract on compassionate grounds.

The Storm said last month Addo-Carr, who has a contract that runs until the end of 2021, had reaffirmed his commitment to the team.

However, a change in the former Wests Tigers wing's family circumstances means he is keen to move back to Sydney.

Melbourne CEO Dave Donaghy stated they are looking at ways to let Addo-Carr go following the 2020 season but will be seeking "fair value" through a combination of a transfer fee, a player swap and salary cap relief.

"We believe this would be a fair outcome for all parties given the investment Storm has made in Josh and that we find ourselves on the cusp of the 2020 season," Donaghy wrote in a letter addressed to members.

"Most importantly, it would allow Josh's request to be met and we, and the game, would be able to continue to support him and his family in the transition back to Sydney."

Addo-Carr was linked with a return to the Tigers after they withdrew an offer to Latrell Mitchell.

Melbourne Storm star Suliasi Vunivalu will switch to rugby union from 2021 after signing a two-year deal with the Reds.

Vunivalu, 24, played union as a teenager before being signed by the Storm, where he made his NRL debut in 2016.

The Fiji international has scored 72 tries in 94 NRL games for Melbourne, helping the Storm win the 2017 premiership.

Vunivalu will honour the final year of his contract with the Storm before joining the Reds in 2021, it was confirmed on Tuesday.

"The Storm has been wonderful to me, and I'm continuing to make great memories here," he said.

"However, the offer from rugby union was too good for me to refuse, especially considering I have a young family who I want to do the best for.

"I was a rugby union player before switching to league and always thought going back to rugby was an option for my career and I never wanted to play for another NRL club.

"I'd hate to have to go up against Storm and my mates. Now this decision is public, I'm concentrating 100 per cent on my final year in Melbourne and looking forward to doing the best I can for the boys, the coaches and all our members and fans.

"I won't be making any further comments on rugby until the NRL season is done."

Vunivalu was the top try-scorer in the NRL in 2016 and 2017, crossing 23 times in each campaign.

Reds head coach Brad Thorn was delighted with the signing of the wing.

"As a group we look forward to welcoming Suliasi Vunivalu back to rugby and to Queensland in 2021," he said.

"Suliasi grew up playing rugby in New Zealand before becoming one of the NRL's most exciting players.

"He's an impressive talent and has an awesome ability to find the try-line. He brings good experience too with almost 100 NRL games for Melbourne and 12 rugby league Tests for Fiji. Suliasi will be a great addition to our programme."

Josh Addo-Carr is committed to Melbourne Storm despite reports linking him with a return to Wests Tigers, insists CEO Dave Donaghy.

The Tigers were believed to have turned their attention to the Melbourne wing, who was said to be interested in moving back to Sydney for personal reasons, after pulling out of negotiations with Latrell Mitchell.

However, the NRL minor premiers have stated Addo-Carr will not be going anywhere ahead of the 2020 campaign.

"We don't respond a lot to external noise but given there is quite a bit of commentary at the moment I thought I'd clear that up," Donaghy told the Herald Sun.

"Where the talk is coming from I'm not sure, but I can say hand on heart Josh is committed to Storm as much as we're committed to Josh.

"I can understand and accept at different times two plus two can equal five as opposed to what it actually equals.

"I think it is all part of the theatre, the environment of the industry that we operate in and that's the reality.

"The facts of the matter are Josh's current contract status is he's signed until 2021 and he's reaffirmed his commitment to Storm.

"Not that we were seeking it, we knew that anyway, but he felt he wanted to reaffirm that."

The Storm also confirmed the departures of Brodie Croft and Curtis Scott on Friday.

Croft has joined Brisbane Broncos on a three-year deal, while Scott agreed a four-year contract with 2019 Grand Final runners-up Canberra Raiders.

Wests Tigers have withdrawn their offer for disgruntled Sydney Roosters star Latrell Mitchell, the NRL side revealed on Thursday.

The Tigers were interested in luring Mitchell from NRL champions the Roosters, who pulled their contract offer for the centre earlier this month.

Mitchell – contracted to the Roosters for another season – has also been linked to Canterbury Bulldogs and Gold Coast Titans.

But the 22-year-old Australia international will not be making the move to Wests Tigers as his future remains in limbo.

"We've withdrawn the offer," Tigers CEO Justin Pascoe told foxsports.com.au.

"It's an active market and we have a responsibility to our members, fans and the club.

"We're focused on securing talent but in relation to Latrell, we've moved on."

It comes as the Tigers reportedly set their sights on Melbourne Storm star Josh Addo-Carr.

A Grand Final winner with the Storm in 2017, New South Wales representative Addo-Carr is believed to be eyeing a return home.

The 24-year-old speedster moved to the Storm from the Tigers ahead of the 2017 season.

 

NRL great Cameron Smith will play for Melbourne Storm during the 2020 season.

Smith, 36, became the first player to reach 400 NRL games during 2019, consolidating his position among the greats.

The former Australia and Queensland star, who is Storm captain, will play on next year, it was confirmed on Thursday.

"I've had a good break after another pretty big season in 2019. I've had time to relax and put my feet up and I'm feeling pretty fresh now," the hooker said.

"I'm looking forward to next year.

"I've been given some 'long service' leave [from training] as I had last year as well so I won't be back until the New Year.

"That seemed to work really well last year. It gives me plenty of time to freshen up and get ready for another gruelling season.

"I'm excited to see the squad improve on last year … and seeing the younger guys go to another level again in 2020."

Smith played 27 games last season and finished as runner-up to Sydney Roosters star James Tedesco for the Dally M Medal.

Storm finished top of the table before falling to a Preliminary Final loss to eventual premiers the Roosters.

Melbourne Storm officials met Nelson Asofa-Solomona on Monday after launching an investigation into an incident involving the forward in Bali.

Footage on social media appeared to show the New Zealand international being embroiled in a street brawl at the weekend.

The NRL Integrity Unit and the Storm are investigating the incident and Melbourne will establish the facts before deciding whether to take any action.

A Storm statement said: "CEO Dave Donaghy and representatives of the club's football department staff, including a player wellbeing and welfare manager, met with Nelson in Melbourne today [Monday] as part of the club's investigation.

"Storm has provided an update to the NRL Integrity Unit. Storm will be looking at all the facts involved in this incident and will reserve its position on any possible ramifications until every aspect has been properly assessed and considered.

"The RLPA [Rugby League Players Association] has been consulted and will continue to be engaged through the process."

An NRL spokesperson said: "Melbourne Storm advised the NRL Integrity Unit of an incident involving a player on holidays Bali.

"The Integrity Unit is working with both the Storm and the player to determine what has happened. The Integrity Unit takes these matters very seriously."

Cameron Smith will consider retirement in the coming weeks after the Melbourne Storm missed out on a place in the NRL Grand Final.

The long-serving Storm captain and former Australia star turned 36 in June, and admitted it would be a wrench to give up playing.

Speaking after the Storm fell 14-6 to the Sydney Roosters on Saturday, goal-kicking hooker Smith told his former club and international colleague Billy Slater he would give thought to his future.

Replying to Slater, who asked on Channel 9 whether he would be back next season, Smith said: "Dunno mate, I'll have a think about it over the next few weeks and decide then.

"But I've said all along, particularly over the last two or three seasons, even though I'm getting on a little bit and the end is near, I've been enjoying my football thoroughly.

"I've been playing a bit of a different style of football in the last couple of years, now we've got a lot of younger players and a lot of inexperienced players, and in a way it's given me a new lease of life in footy.

"But [there are] a lot of things to think about. The family's getting a little bit older with the three kids, they're growing up. I've got a lot of things on, a lot of stuff to weigh up."

Smith holds a host of NRL records, including the most goals, most wins and most games as captain of a team.

Slater has moved into racehorse breeding since retiring last year, and Smith joked: "Do you need help with that brood mare business? I'll come down and be your stablehand."

Sydney Roosters will return to the NRL Grand Final to defend their title after beating minor premiers Melbourne Storm 14-6 in a fierce contest on Saturday.

In a rematch of last year's final, the tone was set after just seconds with a pair of yellow cards for an early confrontation at Sydney Cricket Ground.

But the Roosters quickly got in front and never let their lead slip, scoring crucial tries through Boyd Cordner and James Tedesco and battling bravely at the other end.

Sydney will chase a 15th title against a man who took them to three Grand Finals, with Ricky Stuart back in the season decider with the Canberra Raiders for the first time since losing with the Roosters in 2004.

And this year's final match will come 17 years to the day since Stuart and Sydney won together in 2002.

For the Storm, attention will now turn to the future of the great Cameron Smith, who is said to be undecided amid talk of retirement.

A fast and furious start incredibly saw a player from either side sent to the sin bin within the opening minute.

Nelson Asofa-Solomona appeared to twice swing at Siosiua Taukeiaho, prompting an understandably furious reaction that saw both props shown yellow cards as Latrell Mitchell's boot supplied the first points.

The Roosters came under intense pressure but responded superbly, with Daniel Tupou towering over his opponent to claim a high kick and then holding off three Melbourne players to offload to Cordner to touch down.

Jahrome Hughes then appeared to be guilty of a professional foul when he stopped Tedesco scoring late in the half, but Sydney settled for a penalty, dispatched by Mitchell.

Asofa-Solomona made a rather more positive impact at the start of the second period, though, powering through to score after an extended spell of Storm pressure.

The Roosters were clinging on and their hopes were hit further when Tedesco was controversially deemed to have knocked on to Joseph Manu, whose score was therefore disallowed.

But Tedesco made amends and scored himself with 12 minutes remaining, with Mitchell's conversion crucially moving Sydney eight points in front to seal victory.

Sydney Roosters will be aiming to extend an impressive run at the Sydney Cricket Ground when they face Melbourne Storm in the NRL preliminary finals on Saturday.

However, the minor premiers have been difficult to beat away from AAMI Park and will be out to avenge their Grand Final defeat to the Roosters last year and reach the showpiece for the fourth straight year.

The victors will take on either Canberra Raiders or South Sydney Rabbitohs, who meet at GIO Stadium on Friday.

The Raiders have not won in Canberra since a 20-12 win over the Wests Tigers in July, and the Bunnies have been impressive on the road.

Ahead of the penultimate weekend of the NRL season, we look at the best Opta facts.

 

Canberra Raiders v South Sydney Rabbitohs

- This will be the fourth time the Raiders and the Rabbitohs have met in the NRL finals – and the first time in the nation's capital – with Ricky Stuart's men having won two of their previous three such encounters.
- Canberra will be vying to reach their first NRL Grand Final since 1994 – the longest drought of any active team to have made at least one appearance in the title decider.
- Souths have won all six of their matches outside New South Wales this year, their most in a single season in the NRL era.
- Cody Walker has been directly involved in seven tries in his last four NRL games against the Raiders (four tries, three assists); he has also crossed for the opening score of the match in each of their last two meetings.
- Jarrod Croker is just 16 shy of becoming the seventh player in premiership history to score 2,000 points.

Sydney Roosters v Melbourne Storm

- Five of the past six NRL games between the Roosters and the Storm have been decided by a margin of three points or fewer, with each team picking up three wins in that span.
- The Roosters have won their last nine NRL outings at the SCG and by an average margin of 29 points per game, not once conceding more than 12 points in that run.
- Melbourne have won eight straight away matches in the NRL; the last time they enjoyed a longer winning streak on the road within a single season was a nine-game stretch in 2011.
- The Storm have won nine of their past 11 preliminary finals, including their last three on the bounce across which they have conceded a total of just 18 points.
- Melbourne have averaged 6.5 line breaks per game this season, more than any other team in the NRL.

Melbourne Storm outclassed Parramatta Eels to win 32-0 at AAMI Park and move within one match of a fourth straight NRL Grand Final appearance.

Josh Addo-Carr scored two of the home side's five first-half tries in a blistering start that set up a preliminary final date with Sydney Roosters, the team that beat them in last year's decider.

Cameron Smith was sent to the sin bin late in the opening 40 minutes for slapping Reed Mahoney but nothing could keep the Storm from issuing a convincing response to last weekend's surprise 12-10 loss to Canberra Raiders.

The Eels, high on confidence following an extraordinary 58-0 humbling of the Brisbane Broncos, were starved of possession against a hardened finals force as their season to came to a bitter end.

Addo-Carr needed just five minutes to set the tone, the winger racing 60 metres as he turned multiple chasers inside out to open the scoring.

Maika Sivo took out his frustration with a bone-rattling shoulder charge on Ryan Papenhuyzen but the Storm were hardly intimidated.

Suliasi Vunivalu crossed to double the margin before Cameron Munster chased down a clever Smith kick to give Craig Bellamy's men 12 points in 16 minutes.

Captain Smith's failure to convert all three tries did little to halt Melbourne's momentum as Vunivalu brilliantly knocked a kick back into play to gift Jahrome Hughes a straightforward score.

The minor premiers were running rampant and, courtesy of Addo-Carr, had gone 22-0 ahead by the time Smith was sin-binned in the 29th minute.

Parramatta were more competitive after half-time, but a string of errors and a clash of heads between team-mates Marata Niukore and Tepai Moeroa summed up their performance.

Papenhuyzen rubbed salt into the Eels' wounds by somersaulting over in the right corner and the full-back rounded out the scoring, making the conversion after Nelson Asofa-Solomona crossed in the dying moments.

Melbourne Storm and South Sydney Rabbitohs will each have a second opportunity to reach the NRL's preliminary finals in this week's semi-finals.

The Storm finished the regular season top of the ladder but were upset at home by Canberra Raiders in last week's qualifying finals.

The Rabbitohs likewise came up short as they were beaten by rivals Sydney Roosters, who advanced to the final four.

Melbourne must overcome Parramatta Eels, who enjoyed an outstanding 58-0 win over Brisbane Broncos in the elimination finals.

Manly Sea Eagles, having come past Cronulla Sharks, are next for the Rabbitohs.

We take a look at the key Opta facts behind the two huge fixtures in the NRL Finals this week.


Friday

South Sydney Rabbitohs v Manly Sea Eagles

- The past six NRL matches between the Rabbitohs and the Sea Eagles at ANZ Stadium have seen each team pick up three wins, although the most recent three were all won by South Sydney.

- Manly have conceded 31 penalties in the NRL this season for being offside inside the opposition 10-metre zone, the joint-most of any team (also Newcastle Knights).

- The Rabbitohs' Damien Cook has gained more metres (1,862) scooting out of dummy-half than any other player this term, 320 more than the next best (Cameron Smith – 1,542).


Saturday

Melbourne Storm v Parramatta Eels

- The Storm have won seven of their past nine NRL matches against the Eels (L2), including the most recent three in succession. They have not won more consecutive matches against Parramatta since a four-match span across 2006 and 2007.

- The Eels have made the most offloads (343) of any team in the NRL this year, 125 more than Melbourne (218).

- Storm great Cameron Smith has kicked the most goals (102) of any player in NRL 2019. This has been the first NRL season of his 18-year career in which he has kicked 100 or more goals.

Mitch Moses sparkled as Parramatta Eels pummelled sorry Brisbane Broncos in a record-breaking 58-0 thrashing to set up an NRL finals showdown with Melbourne Storm.

The Broncos were humiliated at a raucous Bankwest Stadium on Sunday, keeping their season alive with an 11-try thumping.

Parramatta's huge margin of victory was the biggest in finals history and their most emphatic over Brisbane, sending a warning to minor premiers the Storm - their opponents in the second week of the finals at AAMI Park next Sunday.

The magnificent Moses claimed a 20-point haul - including a try in each half - as the free-flowing Eels ran riot, with Brisbane having no answer to their expansive brand of rugby.

Anthony Seibold's side were blown away, with Michael Jennings, Moses and Blake Ferguson touching down in the opening 19 minutes.

Maika Sivo claimed a double either side of half-time after a Shaun Lane four-pointer and the Eels showed no mercy, Dylan Brown also scoring twice and Tepai Moeroa claiming his first of the season.

Moses - on target with six conversions - had his brace eight minutes from time and Daniel Alvaro finished in the last minute, with Manu Ma'u adding the extras as the Eels made a big statement.

John Bateman stunned Melbourne Storm with a decisive late try as Canberra Raiders reached the NRL preliminary finals with a dramatic 12-10 win, while Manly Sea Eagles eliminated Cronulla Sharks.

The Raiders were rocked when centre Joseph Leilua was struck in the left eye by a particle from a firework – let off as part of the pre-match entertainment – as he ran onto the pitch.

Bailey Simonsson, Leilua's last-minute replacement, grasped his unexpected opportunity by putting the Raiders in front with a third-minute try in the corner at AAMI Park on Saturday.

Jarrod Croker added the extras and a penalty from Cameron Smith on the stroke of half-time was all the minor premiers could muster after Leilua was cleared to enter the fray, replacing Nick Cotric when he took a boot to the face.

The Storm were level early in the second half when Suliasi Vunivalu touched down after rising above Simonsson to grab a kick from Jahrome Hughes and Smith's second penalty put them in front.

Smith slotted over from the tee again three minutes later and Jordan Rapana – who had a try disallowed during a first half in which Croker missed two penalties – was put on report for a lifting tackle on Cameron Munster.

Craig Bellamy's men looked set to see it out but there was a late twist as Josh Addo-Carr spilled the ball and Leilua scooped it up before setting up Bateman, who crossed after taking a clever pass and Croker converted.

The Storm were furious when Vunivalu was wrongly adjudged to have stepped on the touchline with time running out and looked shell-shocked as Canberra celebrated setting up a preliminary final at GIO Stadium.

Melbourne will face either Parramatta Eels or Brisbane Broncos in a knockout clash next weekend, while Manly will lock horns with South Sydney Rabbitohs on Friday after a 28-16 defeat of Cronulla.

Manly were without a host of key men but stayed alive and ended Sharks captain Paul Gallen's illustrious career as Apisai Koroisau, Moses Suli, Brad Parker, Addin Fonua-Blake and Brendan Elliot all crossed.

There was drama before the start of the NRL Finals showdown between Canberra Raiders and Melbourne Storm when Joseph Leilua was struck in the left eye by a particle of a firework.

Leilua returned to the changing room for treatment at AAMI Park after suffering a freak injury moments before kick-off on Saturday.

The centre was running through an arch which was firing out steam and sparklers when the damage was done.

Leilua was unable to start the match and his late replacement, Bailey Simonsson, scored the opening try after only three minutes.

Former Newcastle Knights man Leilua recovered to join the action midway through the first half, replacing Nick Cotric, with Canberra leading 6-2 at the break.

Brett Morris is set to make a landmark appearance as the NRL Finals kick-off with a heavyweight clash between Sydney Roosters and South Sydney Rabbitohs.

Friday's match between the sides, who finished second and third respectively in the regular season, will be the first Finals game to be played at the Sydney Cricket Ground since the 1983 Grand Final.

Parramatta Eels won on that occasion and they round off the first round of Finals fixtures against the Brisbane Broncos on Sunday.

Minor premiers Melbourne Storm are in action on Saturday, taking on Canberra Raiders, before Manly Sea Eagles host Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks.

Here, we take a look at the best Opta facts for the first round of Finals matches.

Friday

Sydney Roosters (17-7) v South Sydney Rabbitohs (16-8)

- Defending premiers Roosters - who beat the Storm in last season's grand final - have won their past two games against the Rabbitohs, though they have not won three or more in succession against their city rivals since 1988.

- Roosters' Morris is set to play in his 250th NRL fixture. The 33-year-old has not scored a try against the Rabbitohs since 2015.

Saturday 

Melbourne Storm (20-4) v Canberra Raiders (15-9)

- After cruising to the minor premiers title, Melbourne host the Raiders, who have won four of their past eight away matches against the Storm, including a 22-18 victory in their last meeting.

- Suliasi Vunivalu could be the Storm's biggest weapon, with the winger having scored six tries in his last four NRL appearances against the Raiders.

Manly Sea Eagles (14-10) v Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks (12-12)

- The Sea Eagles have won 16 of their past 18 games against the Sharks, including the three most recent fixtures.

- Dylan Walker will be relishing this match, having crossed for a try in each of his previous three NRL meetings with Cronulla.

Sunday

Parramatta Eels (14-10) v Brisbane Broncos (11-12)

- Each of the past four NRL Finals matches played between the Eels and the Broncos have been won by the home side on the day.

- Matt Gillett of the Broncos is set to play his 200th NRL match, while the Eels' Reed Mahoney has made 1,150 tackles in 2019 - more than any other player.

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