Storm will rest stars post-Origin
Storm coach Craig Bellamy has admitted that he plans to rest both Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk at the completion of the Harvey Norman State of Origin Series but hasn't yet decided exactly how.
Smith and Cronk were both given early marks towards the end of Melbourne's 48-6 thumping of the Broncos on Friday night, a scoreline that even Bellamy described as "surreal" in the post-match press conference.
With a casualty ward that already sees Billy Slater, Cameron Munster, Will Chambers, Tim Glasby and Nelson Asofa-Solomona sidelined, the Storm were dealt another blow on Friday night when Jordan McLean suffered a suspected high ankle sprain in the same tackle in which he was concussed early in the game.
Bellamy said that it was in no way potentially season-ending but did indicate that the Country Origin prop would be out for a number of weeks.
Hinting that the onset of the Origin series coincided with an upturn in form for both Smith and Cronk, and despite the protestations of his captain sitting alongside him, Bellamy said that the team's position at the top of the Telstra Premiership will allow him to freshen up his most influential players after Game Three in Sydney on July 13.
Coming into the game with nine try assists for the season, Cronk had four try assists in the first half alone before adding a fifth midway through the second half while Smith exploited a Brisbane team down on confidence.
Bellamy said that a decision on exactly how the pair are rested post-Origin will be determined when they return to the club but that they may not necessarily miss any game-time.
"The one thing that you can be sure of is that we will rest them. Whether it's through training or through games or a little bit of both, we will rest them," Bellamy said.
"We haven't really asked their opinion on it yet to be quite honest but after the third one we will and we'll go from there."
Vigorously shaking his head as Bellamy spoke of the prospect of resting him from games in the coming weeks, Smith said that he feels a duty to the club to front up every week but will take heed of whatever decision Bellamy makes.
"From a player's point of view, it's easy to get up for games, it's why you're in the job you're doing," said Smith.
"We'll have to judge it as we go. We go into [Queensland] camp now for Game Three so we'll see how we come out of that game and see where our squad's at. We still have several injuries to a lot of our key players and obviously I'd love to play every game for the club.
"I want to be there with the boys helping out. I'm the captain of the place and I pride myself on being there helping the boys out every chance I get but if Craig feels strongly about not playing or the medical staff feel strongly about not playing then I'll have to consider it."
The return of Blake Green helped to spread some of the Storm's playmaking duties on Friday night but again it was predominantly the Smith and Cronk show as they expertly engineered a first half flurry that killed off any Brisbane resistance by half-time.
Although he spoke glowingly of his star duo, Bellamy also took the opportunity to suggest that even two-thirds of the 'big three' weren't living up to their own standards early in the season.
"With all due respect to both I think at the start of the season they were probably a little bit down on the standards they've set. Only a touch," Bellamy said.
"I'm not sure I should even say this but it seems when Origin comes around their form goes up, which is music to Queenslanders' ears obviously and not so good for New South Welshmen.
"Our forwards were really dominant early [in the season] and since we've had a few injuries they've really stood up and are probably going above and beyond what they should be doing for our team.
"The really pleasing thing for me is that these two guys have got such a great care for the club and the team. They haven't got a selfish bone in their body and I'm very honoured to coach them."