Backing up after the Maroons’ biggest Origin loss in Brisbane on Wednesday, Melbourne Storm coach Craig Bellamy insists Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Will Chambers will make the final decision on whether they play against the Newcastle Knights on Friday night.
Bellamy said the Queensland trio will make their own call on Friday, keeping in mind they take on the reigning premiers Cronulla Sharks next Thursday in Sydney.
While the representative period takes its toll physically, it’s the intensity and anticipation of State of Origin that can be hard to shake off when returning to club land, particularly after a humbling 28-4 defeat in front of their Queensland home crowd.
"It’s always been a challenge – that’s the hardest thing. The physical thing is one thing and the mental thing is another," Bellamy said. "Our guys are very experienced at Origin and they know what to expect.
"With Queensland’s domination for the last few years, they haven’t had many loses. Last night was disappointing so there’s an element they’ll need to get over. Origin has a big build up and takes a lot out of you. For those guys, it was a big let down last night.
"They’re obviously really disappointed and tired as well. Origins are tough games.
"[Smith] pulled up worst of the three. Most of the say is up to them if they’re not injured. That’ll be the case again. He’s feeling tired and looking tired. We’ll let him get a good night’s sleep and see how we go from there."
After re-signing for another three years at Melbourne, Chambers avoided suspension and is free to play against the Knights after accepting an early plea for his careless high tackle charge in Game One.
In a further boost for the Storm, Jesse Bromwich returns to the side after serving a two-game club-imposed ban.
"It’s great to have Jesse back, he’s been our forwards leader for a long time now," Bellamy said. "While the guys did a good job filling in for him, we certainly missed him. I’m sure he’ll be keen to get back and get stuck in tomorrow night."
Bromwich isn’t the only one keen to impress on Friday night with Billy Slater determined to prove Maroons selectors wrong for controversially snubbing him.
"That’s their business, I’ve already had my say," Bellamy said. "He’s been playing great footy for us. It’s up to them. I’d love for Billy to be back at Origin again but it’s Queensland’s decision.
"We’re all hoping Billy was chosen because you want to see players on the highest level because that’s what they want to do. Billy will be as keen as mustard tomorrow night.
"He’s a very experienced player. He takes things in his stride well. He was really disappointed but he seems able to brush disappointments away after 48 hours. He’s been great at training this week."
While it’s a first-against-last affair, the Storm are expecting a tight encounter after both of last year’s contests with the Newcastle Knights went right down to the wire. Melbourne won 18-14 at AAMI Park (Round 5) and 20-16 at McDonald Jones Stadium (Round 19).
"They certainly challenge us on the scoreboard," Bellamy said. "Last year we were lucky to win both those games. They certainly turned up and got stuck into us. We’ll be preparing for that tomorrow night."