Less than a fortnight from round one of the 2017 NRL season, coach Craig Bellamy is still struggling to figure out who fits best as Melbourne’s five-eighth.
The Storm’s final pre-season trial in Hobart on Saturday resulted in a four-point loss to Canterbury, who led for the entire contest and finished 28-24 winners.
More important than the scoreline for Bellamy is player performance and he has some long sessions coming up watching footage of the clash.
“It’s still far from settled to be quite honest,” the coach said of his quest to find a replacement playmaker for Blake Green after his defection to Manly.
“We’ll have a look (at the footage) and see what we thought and get a bit of an idea of what the senior players thought as well.”
Leading into the contest, captain Cameron Smith said if Cameron Munster impressed at five-eighth, he would probably wear the No.6 in round one.
But the 22-year-old played mostly in his usual position of fullback on Saturday, coming forward only for two conversion attempts, both of which failed.
“(Munster) is a wonderful player,” Bellamy said.
“He could be just as good at five-eighth … he probably needs a little more time there to do that but he’s a very talented footy player – he’s a smart footy player; he’s strong; he’s skilful.
“Basically, any position he plays he could make a go out of it or do it really well if he’s had a bit of time.”
Brodie Croft, 19, also had a stint at five-eighth on Saturday and was another in contention for the No.6 jersey.
Bellamy noted a steady return by some of the more-experienced players.
Smith made his first pre-season appearance after Four Nations duties at the end of 2016, as did fellow big name Cooper Cronk, with both spending only limited time on ground.
The Storm will look to step up before they travel to Belmore on March 3 for round one of the new season in a return clash with the Dogs.
“Our big improvement is going to be in those older players because they didn’t come back and train until late because they were overseas with the Australian and New Zealand sides,” Bellamy said.
“To have a run, get a little time in and blow a few cobwebs out, that will help us enormously in two weeks’ time.”
There’s still no firm word on the return of Billy Slater after his second shoulder reconstruction, with Bellamy saying only that the 33-year-old is “close”.
For the Bulldogs, Kerrod Holland firmed as a contender to fill one of the side’s four vacancies in their run-on 13, with the 24-year-old kicking four out of five conversion attempts and proving strong on the wing outside Josh Reynolds.
Moses Mbye left the ground during Saturday’s game but Bulldogs assistant coach David Penna described the move as precautionary after the key player suffered a knock to the elbow.
“He’ll be right.”