CAMERON Munster says Valentine Holmes’ shock decision to quit the NRL has opened the door for him to chase the Queensland fullback spot – even if he risks losing the famous Maroons No.6 jumper.
Holmes and Kalyn Ponga were considered the front-runners to wear the Queensland No.1 jumper next season following the retirement of Maroons fullback champion Billy Slater.
But there is now another surprise contender in Munster, who says he is prepared to lose the Queensland five-eighth spot in his dream to return to the fullback position in which he was graded at Melbourne.
Holmes was keen to be Slater’s successor following his sizzling introduction to the Origin arena on the wing, but his decision to try his luck in American football has ruled him out of Maroons contention.
Suddenly, a carrot has been dangled before Munster’s eyes.
The Maroons ace has just signed a massive four-year, $4 million upgrade with the Storm – keeping him at the club until the end of 2023 -and has spoken to
Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy about a change of position.
“I’ve had a chat with Craig and let him know I’d like him to consider me at fullback,” said Munster, Queensland’s five-eighth in all three games of the 2018 series.
“I know that it could cost me a State of Origin jumper, but I’m not a selfish player, I’ll play for the Maroons wherever they want me.
“If ‘Kevvie’ (Queensland coach Kevin Walters) chose me at five-eighth, of course that would be an honour.
“A lot of people thought that Kalyn Ponga or Val (Holmes) would be the Queensland fullback next year, but if I was to be considered as well, that would be great.”
Now an established star in the NRL, Munster has other ambitions – like one day captaining Melbourne and possibly the Maroons.
Munster was already contracted to Melbourne for next season but wary of expressions of interest from eight NRL clubs, the Storm upped the ante, sealing his signature with a multi-year upgrade.
Munster turned 24 in September and while Cameron Smith could be Melbourne’s skipper for the next two years, the Maroons pivot hopes his new contract can catapult him to the Storm captaincy.
“I’m really happy to secure my future with the club,” Munster said.
“It’s the first club that gave me the opportunity to play football so I knew I needed to repay them and I know they’ve done a lot for me off-field as well.
“I’m pretty lucky to be surrounded by some great leaders at the Storm. Cameron Smith is probably the best captain you can ever have, but I feel in the next phase of my career leadership and captaincy is definitely a goal of mine.
“I’m in no rush. When Cam retires, Jesse Bromwich is here as well and he’s captained his country, so we’re not short of leaders.
“But I’d like to think as I get older I can take some stuff from those guys and one day grow into a leader at this club.
“I’ve had to learn the hard way at times off the field, but I feel I’ve grown up a lot this season and there’s more roles ahead for me at the Melbourne Storm.”
Just 12 months ago, Munster’s career was at the crossroads after he was involved an alcohol-fuelled incident during Australia’s World Cup campaign.
The classy utility back earned a rebuke from Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga and was read the riot act by Storm coach Bellamy, prompting Munster to temporarily impose a booze ban.
Despite his off night in the Storm’s grand final loss to the Roosters, Munster had another stellar season and he lauded the influence of Bellamy, admitting the Melbourne supercoach inspired his loyalty.
“To be honest, Craig Bellamy was the key for me,” he said.
“If he left the Storm it would have been 50-50 for whether I would have stayed.
“That’s how highly I regard ‘Bellyache’.
“He is such a compassionate person and when I went through my problems with alcohol last year, he was there for me.
“He is always wanting me to improve and be better. He just wanted the best for me and is looking for ways to improve me as a player and person, so I couldn’t have had this success without him.”
Munster will be 29 at the completion of his upgraded deal and he hopes to finish his career at the Storm.
“It’s very rare that you get to be a one-club man,” he said.
“It’s a dream of mine but in saying that everything is a business. Who knows down the track what can happen in this game, but I’d love to stay down here in Melbourne and be a one-club man.”