NRL fans are questioning the legitimacy of the Melbourne Storm's signing of Wests Tigers winger David Nofoaluma for the remainder of the season.
The Storm have finally secured some help to address their mounting injury crisis, with Nofoaluma expected to join the side on loan for the remainder of the year.
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With season-ending injuries to Ryan Papenhuyzen, George Jennings and Reimis Smith, and winger Xavier Coates not due back from an ankle injury for another fortnight, the Melbourne club have been scouring the market for help from rival clubs.
After failed bids to lure Reece Walsh from the Warriors and Josh Addo-Carr from the Bulldogs, news emerged on Wednesday that the Tigers have agreed to loan Nofoaluma to the Storm.
The 28-year-old winger will play out the rest of the season with the Storm before returning to the last-placed Tigers next year, where he's under contract until the end of 2025.
Nofoaluma has scored 95 tries in 175 appearances for the Tigers, including eight in 12 outings this season despite his side's poor form.
However he hasn't played first grade since Round 17 and was named in the Tigers' NSW Cup side on Tuesday.
Melbourne have an 11-7 season record and sit in fifth place, making it almost certain Nofoaluma will get to play finals for the first time in his nine-year career.
However fans have been quick to call into the question the ethics of the Storm's move, which effectively sees a top team improve their side with help from a rival club who can't make the finals.
Because the Storm have one spot free on their 30-man roster, they can add a player from a rival club before the August 1 deadline.
The Panthers did the same thing with Tevita Pangai Junior in 2021, signing him for the rest of the season from the struggling Broncos and going on to win the competition.
However in that instance Pangai was already leaving the Broncos at the end of the season after agreeing to join the Bulldogs in 2022.
Honestly, this is exactly why a draft system needs to be in place. Strong teams shouldn’t be able to do this - pick your extended squad at the start of the preseason and that’s what you’ve got till the draft at season’s end.
— SCisLife (@brxtnnation) July 26, 2022
So what’s to stop any team just using teams out of the top 8’s best players to bolster there teams for finals? Is there some sort of exemption the storm had to go through because of so many injuries?
— PlayCharlesBassey (@7Durantula7) July 26, 2022
I’m a storm supporter and I don’t agree with this at all. Imagine storm go on to win the comp, it’s all we will hear about. It’s way to late in the season to be getting players in and especially loaning players is just wrong. I hate it.
— Tiger_Seth (@TigerSeth2) July 27, 2022
I LOVE that the players can swap to the winning team before the finals. That is EXACTLY what being part of a team is all about 🤪🤪
— Ollypop🇦🇺🦘🇦🇺 (@littlebeth26) July 27, 2022
Agreed but I don’t think it’s fair to the other teams in the finals.
— Matty (@mattyb237) July 27, 2022
What happens if Nofoaluma does a serious injury like an ACL that rules him out for majority of next season? Will the Tigers be compensated? Did Tigers get anything in return for 2022 from the Storm for this favour considering Storm were desperate?
— Freeplay (@Freeplay888) July 27, 2022
I don’t like these mid-season switches. Bad for integrity of game.
— Raw Commodity (@RawCommodity) July 26, 2022
An issue re: David Nofoaluma from a Wests Tigers perspective is that they are still in a desperate fight to get off the bottom of the ladder. They need all their players on deck. Why are they 'loaning' integral squad players out when they could get the wooden spoon? #NRL pic.twitter.com/1NIu4qjvSn
— Curtis Woodward (@woodward_curtis) July 27, 2022
I like the idea of more loan moves in the NRL but this one seems a bit different.
Seems a good move for the Storm and decent enough for the Tigers who weren’t playing him anyway.
Still, I don’t think this is what the NRL had in mind when allowing them.
— Jason Oliver (@JasonNRL) July 26, 2022
Storm pushing the rules as usual. If the Dragons were out of contention should the Storm be able to get Hunt, Su’A and Frank Molo? 1 August deadline is too late.
— Macca (@pmacpher3) July 26, 2022
Melbourne Storm desperate to turn around poor form
Earlier this week it emerged that the Storm had approached the Bulldogs about bringing back Addo-Carr for the rest of 2022, a move that was rejected by the Dogs.
Bulldogs boss Phil Gould reportedly told the Storm that Addo-Carr was too important to the club’s fanbase to allow him to make the move back to Melbourne after he left the Storm at the end of the 2021 season.
It was the second rejection for the Storm after they made an inquiry to the Warriors about young fullback Reece Walsh.
Walsh was benched for the Warriors' clash with the Raiders last weekend and is leaving the New Zealand side to join the Broncos in 2023.
The Storm are in free-fall after their fourth-successive loss at the weekend at the hands of South Sydney, which followed defeats to Manly, Cronulla and Canberra.
Not since 2015 - the same year they last lost four consecutive games - have Melbourne been as low as fifth on the table so late in the season.
"I wouldn't say I relish it, but (my attitude) is, 'it is what it is'," coach Craig Bellamy said after their loss to Souths.
"It's no use hoping something's going to happen, you've got to make it happen through hard work.
"We are probably at the crossroads. We have got to decide whether we're going to turn left or turn right and, with all due respect, the players will make that decision."
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