Storm spoilt for choice at five-eighth
Blake Green's departure at the end of last season left a huge hole to fill in the Melbourne Storm spine, but according to their coaching staff up to half a dozen potential playmakers are ready to put their hands up to take his place in 2017.
The 30-year-old Green was a key figure in the Storm's minor premiership win last season, but after a short stay in Melbourne opted to join bitter rivals the Sea Eagles on a lucrative two-year deal.
While he will be a big loss for the grand finalists, the Storm are not short of talent when it comes to their playmaking stocks.
Speaking to media in the Victorian capital, Storm coach Craig Bellamy outlined the men most likely to wear the No.6 in 2017 – starting with last season's breakout star Cameron Munster, who played a key role at fullback for the Storm in Billy Slater's absence.
"We think that'd be a good position for Cameron. He's shown a lot in the pre-season playing there," Bellamy said.
"Having said, we've got young Brodie Croft who played one game last year. We think he did a good job there and he's been training well in the pre-season.
"We've got a young kid from the Cowboys, Jahrome Hughes, who's had some back problems, but we think he can fit in there as well.
"We've had Curtis Scott doing a little bit of five-eighth as well.
"We've got Ryley Jacks down from the Sunshine Coast – one of our feeder clubs – and he's had a little bit of experience in the NRL.
"They're obviously pretty big boots to fill. Blake Green did a tremendous job here for two years but hopefully out of that group, we'll find someone to fill that position."
With so many men to choose from, Storm assistant coach Adam O'Brien detailed each individual's strengths in a chat with NRL.com.
One of the men tipped to be in contention for the Round 1 clash against the Bulldogs is Croft, who shone when given a chance to make his NRL debut with regular halfback Cooper Cronk away on State of Origin duty.
The 19-year-old kicked for a whopping 347 metres against the Dragons in his lone NRL appearance, chipping in with 31 tackles (no misses) and also setting up Melbourne's first try of the night.
He started the year in the Storm's Holden Cup system but finished 2016 playing for the Easts Tigers in the Intrust Super Cup where he gained valuable experience against bigger bodies.
"He's worked really hard at the back end of last year and into this pre-season on his defence," O'Brien said of Croft.
"He adds a fair bit of variety to our attack. He's a bit like Cooper Cronk in that he's well organised, he's got a really good footy brain and a great kicking game as well. He's certainly doing himself no harm to fill that spot."
Croft's main rival appears to be Munster, who hasn't put a foot wrong since taking over from the injured Billy Slater midway through the 2015 season.
Predominately a fullback, the 22-year-old spent time in the halves in the NYC and the Queensland Cup and would provide a spark if given a chance to wear the No.6 jersey next year.
"Cameron Munster is another option we've tossed up to take that number six spot," O'Brien continued.
"The best part about what he did last year was his running game. I think he had the most tackle breaks for our team so that's something we're mindful of.
"We want to get Cameron plenty of ball and we don't want to put too much structure into his game. We want him to have that ability to run the footy when he feels like he needs to.
"He's quite versatile and he's just your natural footy player. We're just trying to find ways to maximise his attacking ability and getting his hands on the ball."
O'Brien also spoke highly of Ryley Jacks, who was named player of the year for the Storm's feeder club Sunshine Coast in 2016 after scoring 19 tries for the Falcons.
"We've got a young guy in Ryley Jacks who we brought down from our feeder club on the Sunshine Coast and he's really impressed us at training," O'Brien said.
"He has a really good kicking game and he's quite a big guy so he can handle himself defensively.
"Curtis Scott is another guy who's really impressed us in the pre-season. He's similar to Munster in that he can play in the outside backs as well as in the halves."
While it's causing plenty of noise in the outside world, O'Brien doused speculation about the future of the five-eighth role this far out from the start of the season.
"It's still a work in progress," he said.
"We haven't gone into too many specific details on style of play. The first block of pre-season up until Christmas is about getting the ball in hand, but it's also about getting some conditioning in.
"We haven't trained as a definitive 13 yet so we haven't pigeon-holed ourselves into set positions yet.
"While 'Greeny' has left a huge hole to fill, we feel we have some depth there and there's plenty of healthy competition for that spot."