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He might not be involved with the New South Wales State of Origin side anymore but Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy insists the representative period isn’t getting any easier on the Storm as they prepare to face the Sydney Roosters on Monday night minus their three key ‘spine’ playmakers.

While St George Illawarra and Brisbane both have more players involved in next week’s second State of Origin with six and five respectively, Bellamy said that the Storm had it twice as hard during the middle stages of the season because the players absent from his side all filled the primary playmaking roles.

His comments come as discussion over representative scheduling reignites with a proposal put forward to move Origin to Monday nights to alleviate player fatigue.

“We’re a team that – and I’m not saying it’s any harder for us than any other club that loses its players – but the representative season is a little bit different for us,” Bellamy told today.

“During those six weeks when you’ve hardly got your Origin players, even when they are back here you’re basically resting them. All of our key position players are in Origin so for us to change our game or try and improve our game in certain areas, and to do so without the guys in key positions… it makes it doubly hard for us at this time of year.

“It’s hard to improve in all of those areas you want to improve because you can’t practice.

“But we know that this is what happens at this time of year so we just get on with it.

“The thing for us is trying to get each individual to try and get a little bit better through this period, and that’s our focus during the Origin period.”

The Storm will be without four players when they host the Roosters this week – Cameron Smith, Billy Slater, Cooper Cronk and Dane Nielsen – leaving them with a host of new faces in key positions.

Bellamy has named Justin O’Neill to replace Slater at fullback with Rory Kostjasyn donning the No.7 and Ryan Hinchcliffe starting at hooker in place of Smith.

“We don’t have those [Origin] guys available this week and again this is always the thing – it’s a funny sort of feeling this week with those players not there,” he said.

“It’s a huge challenge for us although the positive is that all of those younger players that are going to be in the team this week have played a fair bit this year, whereas in the past probably some of the younger blokes haven’t played much first grade.

“So we’re probably a little bit better positioned this week than in the past because the younger players that are there have had a bit more time. It makes it a bit easier for us.”

Although Melbourne find themselves well placed in second spot on the NRL ladder, Bellamy said that the representative period had already played a damaging role, with the Storm struggling to score points in recent weeks following narrow wins over Cronulla and South Sydney.

“Probably the past month we haven’t scored as many points as we would have liked but there are different circumstances and different reasons for that,” he said.

“It’s difficult for us to work as a team at this time of year [with players missing] so we’re just looking at little things each week with individual players because we know that if individuals play better, then the team will play better. That’s our main focus at the moment.”

Despite his concerns, Bellamy said that he was ecstatic with the efforts of his players so far this season following the departure of seven players in the wake of last year’s salary cap scandal.

“We’ve started the year really well,” he said. “At the same time we’ve had a lot of home games so it’s the second half of the season that we always knew would be the tough half for us but again I’m certainly happy with where we are at the moment. We had a very high turnover of players – a big turnover of players – so they’ve done a real good job for us.”