Canterbury are likely to seek NRL salary cap relief for the second time in three months after Chris Smith suffered a serious knee injury in the All Stars pre-season match.
Scans are expected to confirm backrower Smith tore his ACL after impressing early for the Indigenous All Stars in their loss to Maori All Stars on Saturday night, potentially ruling him out for the entire season.
“We’re incredibly disappointed firstly for Chris,” Bulldogs boss Andrew Hill told AAP on Sunday afternoon.
“He’s worked incredibly hard over the last few years to get to a position where he’s now getting picked in representative teams.”
Smith, 26, becomes the second Canterbury player looking at a long stint on the sidelines in 2020 after a serious injury incurred while playing for a representative team.
Star playmaker Kieran Foran underwent a shoulder reconstruction after getting hurt playing for New Zealand last November.
Under NRL rules, the Bulldogs will be given $350,000 salary cap relief for Foran’s injury despite the former Kiwi international earning roughly $1 million a year.
The development prompted Canterbury to call for a review into policy surrounding players injured during representative fixtures.
Hill put the issue on the agenda for clubs during a chief executives conference prior to the NRL Nines in Perth a fortnight ago.
The Smith blow will only strengthen their case.
It is understood clubs are asked to pick up the tab on both the injured and replacement player, while insurance doesn’t cover the entire calendar year.
There are also believed to be strict conditions around the salary cap relief, including the replacement being a like-for-like player.
Then there’s the added difficulty of finding a similar-calibre player, particularly in the case of Foran, at this time of the year.
It leaves Bulldogs coach Dean Pay, off-contract at the end of the year, without two players who were likely to form part of his starting 17.
“Clearly, after two long-term injuries from representative football, we want a discussion around what compensation and what protection there is for clubs who lose players for the season,” Hill said.
Smith was considered the most serious of a number of injury concerns stemming from a willing All Stars encounter on the Gold Coast.
Wade Graham (ankle), Tyrone Roberts (ankle) and Josh Kerr (knee) were also injured for the Indigenous side.