Cooper Cronk won't be making an early comeback from a broken arm this week, according to Storm coach Craig Bellamy. Credit: Col Whelan Copyright: NRL Photos
Storm fans can cool their optimism while lovers of the Big V can rest easy – Cooper Cronk will not play for Melbourne against St George Illawarra on Monday night, according to Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy.
Reports have been circling since Wednesday night that the star halfback could make a shock return – five weeks after a broken arm – to face the Dragons.
However his coach hit any such speculation fairly and squarely on the head by Thursday morning.
"He is no hope at all [to play], I don't know where this has all come from," said Bellamy.
"If anyone thinks he is and wants to put their house on it I'm willing to put my house up, he is no chance.
"He is probably at least three or four weeks away."
Given the opposing halves this round, Bellamy may well have wished the rumours to be true.
Former Storm premiership player Garreth Widdop and halves partner Benji Marshall loom as potential match winners for a Dragons team looking for just its sixth win over the Storm in 15 years.
The two Bens, Hampton and Roberts, will be the Storm pair that will go head-to-head with the more decorated duo.
In an area that has at times resembled a revolving door, the form of both players in recent weeks has seen both the No.6 and 7 look its most settled since Cronk's injury six weeks ago.
Monday night will be a significant challenge for both Hampton and Roberts but recent form has the coach believing in the new pairing.
"The test for them has been to come up with what they've come up with the last couple of weeks, with a couple of little of improvements in a couple of areas of their games," said Bellamy.
"I don't see it as a challenge against the other two halves, I see it as a challenge to continue their improvement on what they've done the last couple of weeks."
Melbourne will face a St George Illawarra team still seething from its round 16 loss to the Storm at AAMI Park.
Storm winger Young Tonumaipea controversially scored the winning try after the full-time siren to cap off one of the most bizarre finishes to an NRL game in recent memory.
Bellamy would not buy into any bad blood carrying over when the two sides meet on Monday night – 10 weeks after that night of mayhem.
"We will prepare the best way we think will have us perform on Monday night," said Bellamy.
"Obviously the game here didn't finish how they wanted it to. But having said that, that wasn't our doing, it was a mistake by the referees.
"But having said that... we got a couple of bad calls as well."
The Storm will travel to take on the Dragons at WIN Stadium on Monday night at 7pm.