Canterbury Bulldogs coach Trent Barrett has strong refuted claims his club has struck a secret deal to bring Storm hooker Brandon Smith to the club.
Smith has been given the all-clear from the Storm to look into his options to nab a starting No.9 position at a rival NRL club from next season, a year out from the end of his contract with the club.
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On Wednesday, reports emerged that the New Zealand international had secretly signed a three-year deal to join Barrett's Bulldogs from next season.
Former NRL star Scott Sattler revealed on SEN radio that he'd heard on good authority from a source at the Bulldogs, that the club had landed the in-form rake.
However, Barrett dismissed any such suggestion on Thursday when asked by reporters if Smith was coming to the club.
"No, he's not. I was a bit surprised by that one. We haven't spoken to Brandon Smith," Barrett said.
When asked if he would be interested in the 24-year-old, Barrett said he didn't think he was off contract and said the Bulldogs were well stocked in the hooking department, regardless.
"As it is we've got our two young hookers here with (Jeremy) Marshall King and Sione (Katoa) and our main focus this week is that they both play well and we need them to."
Storm to consider Smith swap deal
Smith is contracted to Melbourne until the end of 2022 but the club have confirmed they would be willing to let him go at the end of the season if they could secure a player of similar quality in a swap deal.
Several clubs are interested in the premiership winner, including Wests Tigers, Gold Coast, Warriors and Brisbane.
It comes as Smith prepares to play his third game of the season as the Storm's starting hooker with Dally M rookie of the year Harry Grant sidelined with a knee injury.
Grant was due to return for their round-four game against Brisbane but his recovery is taking longer than expected, giving Smith at least two more games to impress at dummy half.
Meanwhile, Barrett said it's a difficult balance to strike between praise and protest with his young side as they look for their first win of the season against Brisbane on Saturday.
"There's a fine line because we are young and our spine and a lot of these guys are new to the club too," he said.
"While we need to point out and hold everyone accountable to where we're going wrong we still need to keep it positive and make sure we're ramming home the things they are doing well.
"Because, there are some positives in the game, but not for long enough periods."
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