Storm fullback Billy Slater hopes to return in Round 1, 2017.

NRL superstar Billy Slater's return from shoulder surgery has been a long time coming but Melbourne Storm fans will have to wait a little longer with coach Craig Bellamy announcing the fullback will not be lining up in the team's season opener against the Canterbury Bulldogs next Friday.

"I'm pretty sure he won't be playing the first couple of rounds," Bellamy said. 

"We've waited a long time and we're not going to take any risks on him physically or mentally. We definitely think we can see a light at the end of the tunnel now. It should be sooner rather than later he's going to play.

"Everything's going along really well to be quite honest. I'm not quite sure whether to say we're on track because we've never really had a track that was clear. It was all pretty blurry along the way."

While the Storm are hopeful Slater will take his place soon, they were hit with heavy news with Tohu Harris missing eight to 10 weeks after suffering a stress fracture in his foot.

"It's not great," Bellamy said. "We thought we had got through the trials unscathed actually. 

"Tohu's had a sore foot for a bit and we thought it was part of an ankle injury but it wasn't. He's in a boot for a little bit and will take a while to get back."

 


Slater's delayed return complicates the make-up of the Storm's backline for the early rounds, with Bellamy to decide whether to name rising star Cameron Munster at fullback or in the halves alongside Cooper Cronk.

Munster was a revelation in place of the injured Slater last year but prepared to play at five-eighth during this year's pre-season. Munster looked incredibly comfortable in the new position with his sensational Auckland Nines performance, earning him Team of the Tournament honours earlier this year. 

"Obviously, Cameron has trained mostly in the halves in the preseason," Bellamy said. 

"To put him back there [at fullback now] would be a big call but we've got to do what we think is best for the team. As I said I doubt Billy will play next week, so we need to give that a little bit of thought. 

"Hopefully by Monday or Tuesday we'll know what we're doing in training there. All the guys in consideration have all done plenty of training with the team so I don't think it's going to be a real big situation for us.

"We've done some experimenting in the trials but we haven't 100 per cent settled on what we're going to do yet."

With just a week until their season kicks off, the Storm and Bellamy will have to make some big decisions soon.