Storm eyeing Big Sam among future plans
Sitting four points clear atop the NRL ladder, the Melbourne Storm have their focus firmly on grand final redemption this year but they have already cast one eye on next season too.
With the looming departures of Cooper Cronk, Jordan McLean and Tohu Harris, the Storm are looking to boost their playing stocks as they chase Canterbury prop Sam Kasiano and try to retain Billy Slater for another season.
"Losing Jordan McLean, that takes a bit of size out of our team; we'd love to have Sam here," Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy said. "There's no secret we're trying to get him.
"I'm not sure the Bulldogs want to release him. They've made a couple of big buys and might have to release him.
"For us, hopefully we can get him here. He's got size and great skill for a big guy. We think he'd fit into our style of play and we'd love to see him here in Melbourne.
"My sources tell me Sam got married in the pre-season, has a couple of kids and settled right down. He'd fit right into our family atmosphere here."
Bellamy is also eager to re-sign Slater after an impressive comeback from battling with shoulder injuries.
Negotiations are in development with the club but the 33-year-old wants to be certain about playing on beyond 2017 before signing a new deal.
"Billy wants a bit more time to think about it," Bellamy said. "He has come back really well but he wants to be sure he wants to play another year again.
"He's had a wonderful career and we'd love to extend that for another 12 months if we can."
The coach admitted the off-field incident that has seen star prop Jesse Bromwich stood down by the club for the next two matches had taken some toll on morale at the Storm.
"I can't stand here and say it hasn't affected us at all," Bellamy said. "It's obviously been the talk of league. We're not immune from that.
"I'd just like to think it's been a huge life lesson for Jess. Hopefully it's been a learning lesson for other players as well."
With State of Origin also on the horizon, the Storm are prepared to lose a number of stars – including Cronk, Cameron Smith, Will Chambers and Billy Slater – to Origin duty as they do every season.
"While we'd like to selfishly keep them just for us, we love our players playing rep footy and especially Origin because it's a great experience for them," Bellamy said.
"We're down on troops through the middle at the moment. Every game's important, they're all worth two points. Hopefully the next couple of weeks the guys can do a good job for the club."