Craig Bellamy knows competition for spots is at an all-time high as Melbourne Storm head into finals, with several fresh faces stealing the show in Thursday night’s win over the Brisbane Broncos in Round 27.
Entering the pointy end of the season riding a four-game winning streak, Bellamy’s in no rush to make changes to the side that scored 138 points in the three games leading into the Broncos clash, however, is spoilt for choice given the strong form shown by those knocking on the door of NRL selection.
Young Tonumaipea was the only starter to front up after last week’s win over the Titans, with debutants Jack Howarth, Joe Chan and Sua Fa’alago all getting their opportunities as well as the likes of Tariq Sims, Aaron Pene and Chris Lewis who all returned to the fold after strong performances in the HostPlus Cup.
Ryan Papenhuyzen and Tyran Wishart both impressed after handing being handed a starting spot, while proven first-graders Reimis Smith and Justin Olam also returned to the starting lineup.
It was local Victorian Sua Fa’alago who owned the big moments to orchestrate the win for Storm, setting Suncorp alight with a dazzling try from just his very first touch of the ball before crossing again to secure the result just shy of fulltime.
Bellamy said having the likes of Fa’alago pushing regular starter Nick Meaney and now Ryan Papenhuyzen to new heights is only a positive thing for Storm’s outside backs depth and has no doubts that Fa’alago’s time to shine on the big stage won’t be too far off in the future.
“We wanted to give him a start but it probably wasn't the right game or the right time, he’s a brave little player, obviously quick and that’s his strength,” he said.
“He still needs to learn a few things about the game but we trying to do that as quickly as we can, we can all see the potential he’s got so I’m sure he’ll be a regular first grader in the not too distant future,” he said.
With Storm’s outside back stocks virtually fully stocked, Bellamy said the performances of the likes of Olam, Smith and Papenhuyzen will leave him with some good headaches to have heading into finals.
“We used him [Ryan Papenhuyzen] in a few different roles, he started at fullback, played in the halves and played in the ruck for 10-15 minutes,” he said.
“Not quite sure how we are going to use him, we’re pretty sure he’ll be in the 17 but how we use him will depends on what other players we have got available and who we don’t,” he said.
“Again, we’ll look at what he [Olam] did tonight as we obviously have Youngy [Youn Tonumaipea] and Maz [Marion Seve] to come back in,” he said.
“Reimis is obviously a centre but his last few first grade games he’s been on the wing and he does a really good job especially defensively and makes some really good decisions so we will watch the game back and go from there,” he said.
Bellamy also hosed down suggestions that Harry Grant would be unavailable for the first week of finals and indicated Hughes was a good chance to start at halfback despite not travelling with the team to Brisbane.
“Harry will play I’m really confident of that,” he said.
“I think with Jahrome, we didn't bring him with as the flight could've swollen the injury up which wouldn’t be good for him so left him at home but we’re reasonably confident he we will play,” Bellamy said.
Storm’s win puts them up into 3rd place on the table, with their first week finals opponent to be confirmed after Penrith take on the Cowboys tomorrow evening.