Storm sweat on Smith injury
With a spot in the finals safely tucked away, all eyes will now turn to the fitness of Storm captain Cameron Smith.
Smith suffered a lower leg injury in Friday night’s 22-12 win over the Broncos and did not front for the post-match press conference.
The Storm skipper left the field 10 minutes before halftime with speculation at the break that his night may be over.
But two minutes after the restart Smith emerged, much to the relief of the Storm faithful, to lead his side to a crucial win.
The Maroons and Kangaroos captain is now in a race against the clock to be fit for the first week of the finals.
In Smith’s absence, coach Craig Bellamy was left to field questions surrounding his hooker’s wellbeing and did his best to bring light to the situation.
“I am not quite sure how bad it is, I don’t think it is something that is real minor. For him to come off it’s obviously a bit of an issue,” said Bellamy.
“Our physio tells me he is the best physio in the game so I am sure he will get him up for next week, that’ll put a bit of pressure on him.”
With Storm clinging to a 12-10 halftime lead, Melbourne left the 31-year-old to decide whether he would return.
“At halftime he said he was pretty confident he could come back on… he just wanted a couple of minutes on the sideline to make sure that he could run and stretch out a little bit,” said Bellamy.
“As soon as we got the thumbs up we put him back out there again. It’s not ideal to lose him but having said that these things happen and hopefully the physio can make good with his claims.”
Whether it was Smith’s re-emergence or not, the Storm were immovable with their goal-line defence in the second half.
The Broncos led the possession count and made more metres in the match but time and again the home side repelled.
“That is an attitude thing and is something that Storm has prided itself on the whole time I’ve been here, is defending back-to-back sets,” said Ryan Hoffman.
“We’d like not to put ourselves in that position too many times during the game but if we can keep doing that and keep improving in that area… it will give us a good opportunity.”
The improved defence is a key reason the Storm finished the home-and-away season winning six of their last eight games.
With what once looked to be a shaky top eight spot now secure, Melbourne can now turn their attention to the September stage they know all too well.