Craig Bellamy gives Storm stars until last minute to prove fitness
Melbourne Storm coach Craig Bellamy plans to give his three injured stars up until Saturday to prove their fitness for Sunday’s showdown with St George-Illawarra Dragons.
Lock Dale Finucane (thumb), winger Suliasi Vunivalu (hamstring) and centre Curtis Scott (ankle) were all named in the Storm’s 17 to face the Dragons but Bellamy won’t lock in any of them as certain starters.
Finucane and Vunivalu trained with the main group at the opening of the Storm’s Thursday training and both looked sharp, with Finucane featuring some light taping on his surgically repaired thumb.
But Scott worked away from the group, which adds further weight to quotes from football director Frank Ponissi earlier in the week which stated Scott wasn’t likely to play even if named in the side.
“We are not playing until Sunday and we have [the] captain’s run on Saturday so it might be up until then that we get them all,” Bellamy said.
“That’s what will probably happen, we give them right up until Saturday.”
Finucane had a pin inserted into his thumb after his injury a month ago and Bellamy said the player needed to show he could tackle and pass before he was allowed to return.
“He just needs to show he is comfortable catching the ball, carrying the ball and more important than that, show that he can make his tackles,” Bellamy said.
The Storm only named one outside back, Young Tonumaipea, among its reserve players so in the event both Scott and Vunivalu can’t play Bellamy said the club may ask to bring in outside back Justin Olam from outside their named 23.
“We might have to bring someone else in and that’s Justin Olam, who has been our 18th or 19th man a couple of times,” Bellamy said.
“We will just see what happens there and it might not be until Saturday that we know.”
Bellamy praised the first-placed Dragons for their outstanding start and their sharpness in attack.
“They have been tremendous and it’s been a little while since a team has had a start like they have had,” Bellamy said.
“They were beaten once but have been very impressive and certainly their attacking stats and defensive stats are way above anything I can remember after eight rounds.
“We know it will be a tough ask for us but we have been pretty good our last three weeks and hopefully we can continue that.”
The Storm had a four-day break after their 50-10 win over New Zealand Warriors last Wednesday and Bellamy said both players and coaches came back refreshed.
Bellamy and the Storm are still in talks about whether he will re-sign for next season.
After spending his break with family on the Gold Coast, Bellamy paused and laughed when asked if the break made him any keener to move north next year.
“I basically spent four days on the beach and if I wasn’t at the beach, I was at the pub putting my feet up,” Bellamy said.
“I don’t really know [about next year] but it was just nice to have four days off, the players needed it and perhaps some of the coaches did too.”
The Storm also spent time with Super Rugby champions Christchurch Crusaders on Thursday, having a joint lunch and hearing from Crusaders coach Scott Robertson, who famously break-danced for his players after last year’s title win.
“It was a change to talk to some sensible people over lunch rather than our players,” Bellamy joked.
“The coach gave us a little presentation on some of the things they look at and they showed us a video of Scott doing a break-dance, he is a very talented dancer, probably as much as he is as a coach.”
While Bellamy may still re-sign with the Storm, he has ruled out offering his own dance should the Storm go back-to-back as NRL premiers.
“My players might say “you need to be doing that” but I would break both hips, I imagine, if I tried to do what he did,” Bellamy said.
The Storm play the Dragons at Jubilee Oval on Sunday at 2pm.
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