The uncertainty over the World Club Series took a new twist after Melbourne admitted they may not take part.
The Storm ‘earned’ a place in the pre-season competition as both NRL league leaders (minor premiers) and beaten Grand Finalists.
But the club’s CEO Dave Donaghy admitted they would not take part unless it was “really commercially attractive”.
They are not contractually obliged to take part.
And he told the Herald-Sun: “We do have some serious concerns about travelling across to the other side f the world two weeks out from our season starting for what is effectively a trial match.
“We’ve had two trials matches locked in (in Australia) for a long time and that may be a better option for us as we look to build into the season for next year.
“It would need to be really commercially attractive for us to compromise our pre-season preparation to partake.”
There was no mention of the prospect of Melbourne staging a WCS match, which would remove any travel concerns.
Wigan chairman Ian Lenagan admitted they would be willing to travel to Australia to face NRL opposition, if they lose on Saturday.
But if the WCS is cut from three to two matches, Challenge Cup winners Hull FC are set to be offered a spot ahead of the beaten Grand Finalists.
NRL champions Cronulla Sharks are scheduled to meet the winners of Saturday’s Super League Grand Final for the World Club Challenge trophy, probably in England in February. But a question mark hangs over the other two matches which complete the ‘series’, with Lenagan saying this week the Australians wanted only two matches.
He described the situation as “not satisfactory”. “It’s crazy, you’re talking about games in February, now,” he said. “Rugby league has to have a long term view, and it hasn’t got it currently.”
Melbourne’s withdrawal would be a blow to the integrity of the WCS, even if they were replaced by a lower-ranked side, such as beaten-semi-finalists Canberra or North Queensland.
The concept of playing three matches was introduced last year.
At first in included two NRL teams who finished down the ladder (St George Illawarra and Brisbane), but this season’s games includes the league leaders and two Grand Finalists.
Super League sides have lost all six World Club Series matches.
NRL clubs in last year’s WCS reportedly received an A$100,000 appearance fee, in addition to A$300,000 to cover travel and accommodation costs.