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Cooper Cronk: NRL Round 21 Raiders v Storm, Canberra Stadium, Sunday 4th August, 2013. Photo: Renee McKay/Action Photographics

Storm Coach Craig Bellamy is hopeful halfback Cooper Cronk will be available for Melbourne’s season opener against Manly in Round 1.

Cronk has had shoulder surgery since returning from the World Cup where the number seven played an integral role in the Kangaroos’ victory over New Zealand.

Speaking on Thursday morning, Bellamy told the media Cronk will most likely be absent for Storm’s trial matches throughout February.

“I don’t think Cooper will be playing any of the trial games,” Bellamy said.

“He’s had an operation on his shoulder, that is the main reason he won’t be playing in any of the trials.

“It is something he carried throughout the season but I think he aggravated it at the World Cup.”

Cronk’s absence means opportunities will be created for several up and coming playmakers throughout Melbourne’s pre-season. However, Bellamy is hopeful Cronk will be available for the beginning of Storm’s 2014 campaign.

“We will see how he goes, hopefully he will be alright for Round 1,” Bellamy said.

“It gives us a good chance to have a look at a couple of halves playing in that role.

“At this stage we will be giving other guys a chance there and see how they handle it.”

Bellamy nominated 21-year old Ben Hampton as one potential candidate for the role but indicated a number of different options will be tried throughout pre-season.

“Ben would probably be in front basically because he has been at the club for a little while, he played a couple of first-grade games last year,” Bellamy said.

“Having said that, there are a couple of guys there we want to give a go to and see how they handle it.”

Cronk will join his teammates next week when he returns to training.

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