Tick, tick, tick …
Speak to those on the fringes and they will tell you it was only a matter of time. As electrifying as Cameron Munster is on the field, you could set your watch to the moment he was going to blow up off it.
The running joke is opposition defences can train many sets of eyes on him to curb his mesmerising influence on the field, but his own employers can never have enough sets of eyes to curb his equally damaging influence off it.
Which is why allegations he was involved in an altercation with Kangaroos and Queensland teammate Ben Hunt during the World Cup-winning campaign, during their stay in Darwin for the quarter final, shocked many but also shocked few.
At the crossroads: Cameron Munster of the Storm. Photo: AAP
Those in the n camp were playing down the fist fight angle on Monday, but weren’t running from the fact Munster stepped out of line in a friendly wrestle gone wrong right under the noses of Mal Meninga and Cameron Smith who, when asked about previous selection controversies on the basis of off-field behaviour, said: “How hard is it to be a good person?”
Munster and Hunt, both of whom spent a large part of the camp as “Emus”, or Kangaroos squad members not part of the top 17, later shook hands and laughed it off. All good, just boys being boys.
You reckon Craig Bellamy had the same reaction when n officials banished Munster, 23, back to Melbourne mid-tournament to face his Storm coach before he later returned to the Kangaroos with an apology for Meninga?
Which is the greatest conundrum when it comes to the Storm’s other Cameron, a career at the crossroads as it’s just about to take off.
Munster plays in the most professional set-up in the NRL, under its hardest taskmaster and most revered captain.
He not only filled Johnathan Thurston’s sizeable boots for his State of Origin debut, but he played so well people stopped wondering if the dynasty was about to end and started questioning whether NSW had a hope for the next 12 years. The time known north of the border as After JT had never looked so bright.
He then won a premiership alongside Cooper Cronk. Made his Kangaroos debut during the World Cup a month later. And still people whisper about how it all could unravel at any moment.
This year, Munster’s halves partner at the Storm will most likely go by the name Croft and not Cronk. When he looks across the other side of the ruck, a 20-year-old with five games of NRL experience will be helping call the shots rather than a 34-year-old professional with 323 NRL appearances who has helped make Melbourne.
Every one of Cronk’s representative jerseys – and Thurston’s for that matter – is up for grabs this year. Munster should slip into whichever one he demands, but those pulling the strings still fret. Smith has even felt compelled to go on record and claim Munster has standards to adhere to, yet the Hunt hoo-ha suggests his captain’s plea has fallen on deaf ears.
Coach Kevin Walters said last week on the eve of this year’s Queensland Emerging Origin camp that players knew the behavioural standards required of them after the calamity of two years ago, when eight were banned from the 2016 series for breaking curfew.
Six, including Munster, made their debuts in the come-from-the-dead Origin escape in last year’s series. Walters said they all had learned their lessons.
All, maybe, except one.
Tick, tick, tick … boom!