Bellamy avoiding Tigers distraction
New Wests Tigers interim coach Andrew Webster gets his first chance to show his coaching chops after Jason Taylor's surprise sacking just three rounds into the season.
While the Wests Tigers will be desperate to prove a point in front of a vocal home crowd at their spiritual home at Leichhardt Oval, they will face a stern task against the top-of-the-table Melbourne Storm and master-coach Craig Bellamy.
Bellamy has several of his own issues regarding the final 17-man line-up, with superstars Suliasi Vunivalu and Cameron Munster on the sideline with injury.
"We can't control what happens up there and we can't control what's already happened," Bellamy said. "That's their business and the club is doing what they think is the right thing. It's unfortunate for Jason Taylor."
While the undefeated Storm are heavy favourites entering the clash, the Tigers pushed them to the limit in their two encounters in 2016. Melbourne escaped with a 29-20 win at home in Round 16 and stole a thrilling 19-18 win at Leichhardt Oval in Round 7 last year.
"Wests Tigers always play well at Leichhardt. It seems to be their favourite home ground," Bellamy said.
"After what happened this week, you'll think they'll be pretty determined.
"We can only control how we prepare for how we play this Sunday."
After a hectic preseason and start to the schedule – including virtually five weeks of travelling and two road trips to New Zealand for the Auckland Nines and against the Warriors in Round 2 – Bellamy welcomed a nine-day turnaround following a tough last-gasp 14-12 win over the Brisbane Broncos last Thursday.
"The other thing with games early in the season, until you get used to the pace of the game again and the physical nature, it knocks you around a bit too," Bellamy said. "Having this longer turnaround has been really good for us."
Adding to their timely fortune was Jesse Bromwich and Billy Slater's returns in compensation of Munster's broken jaw which is expected to sideline him for four to six weeks.
Young Tonumaipea was named to take Vunivalu's wing spot. Tonumaipea's addition could also provide Slater a valuable spell at fullback, who is slowly working his way back into top form.
"Billy's been a little sore after not playing for a fair period of time," Bellamy said.
"(Having Tonumaipea fill at fullback) can be handy I suppose. Young deserves that position (on the wing) with Suli not playing."