By Gilbert Gardiner The Herald Sun
Craig Bellamy has challenged the next generation of Melbourne Storm prospects to stand up to the grind of the upcoming NRL season.
The premiership mastermind must make two forced changes from last year’s grand final team following Billy Slater’s retirement and Tim Glasby’s move to Newcastle.
While a shootout between Jahrome Hughes and Scott Drinkwater will decide Slater’s replacement, the back-up prop role, supporting newly minted vice-captain Jesse Bromwich and Kiwis international Nelson Asofa-Solomona, is up for grabs.
If a game was played today Tui Kamikamica would suit up for the Storm but the giant Fijian enforcer has strong competition from Queensland under-18s and Junior Kangaroos representative Tino Fa’Asuamaleaui.
Fa’Asuamaleaui loomed as a possible debutant for the Storm late last season as the NRL juggernaut steamed towards the finals but ultimately fell short.
Tino Fa’asuamaleaui, pictured for Easts Tigers in the Queensland Cup last year, is pushing to make his NRL debut for Melbourne Storm.
A breakout off-season has put the 197cm 18-year-old powerhouse firmly in Bellamy’s sights.
Sam Kasiano, Albert Vete and Patrick Kaufusi will also audition for the Round 1 job in upcoming NRL trials.
“This is probably the youngest group we’ve ever had, or certainly the youngest group I’ve ever seen,” Bellamy said.
“We had some young guys from outside our 17 last year, some on the edge that probably played a couple of games, they’ll certainly get an opportunity but there’s a few new guys that haven’t played first grade that will get some opportunities and we’ll see how they handle it.
“It will be really exciting (for them) at the start of the year … when you get four, five, six weeks of getting bashed up and then it gets into a real grind, that’s when they need to keep sticking their head up.”
Bellamy unveiled a new-look leadership group with vice-captains Bromwich and Dale Finucane supporting long-time skipper Cameron Smith.
“We realise that Cameron is not going to play forever … so we think that we’d like to give a couple of our players the chance to experience what an NRL captain goes through,” Bellamy said.
“It will be either Jesse or Dale (at this stage) that takes over from Cameron when he does retire and we just don’t want to throw them in cold turkey.”