Cameron Smith and Billy Slater are still in doubt for the Melbourne Storm this Sunday according to fellow 'Big Three' member Cooper Cronk.
The Storm were left short on Saturday when Slater was forced from the field after an ugly tackle that left him receiving urgent attention while captain Smith was taken off with a pectoral strain during their gutsy win in Canberra.
Cronk asserted Slater was still feeling the after effects of the brutal hit as he tries to retain his place for this weekend.
"He’s (Slater) still nursing a sore head. He doesn’t remember a lot that went on," Cronk said. "The best thing about the game now is it’s not up to the player whether he can play or not. It’s about passing the protocols and concussion tests that are in place that he needs to pass and then he’ll be able to play."
Canberra Raiders forward Sia Soliola’s late hit on Slater has become the hot topic of rugby league and Cronk offered his assessment of the situation.
"I’m not sure on what I can and can’t comment on but if I shoot straight from the hip, it was an incident that warranted a send-off," Cronk said.
"I don’t want to judge referees but you would think the situation, the circumstances, how it all unfolded and having the ability to see replays, I’d think it should’ve been a harsher penalty on the night.
"The hit was quite late and high. I’m not part of the judiciary and don’t know what determines those things but I dare say – I’m not here to pre-empt anything – it’ll be a few weeks (suspended).
"What he was doing was putting pressure on a ball player before he can pass. Sometimes you have your back turned in instances like that and he hit him with everything he’s got.
"Soliola is a good person and good player but that shouldn’t come into account of instances like that."
Smith is also racing the clock to play his 350th match for Melbourne but Cronk doesn’t know if he will be fit in time.
"(I’m) not really sure. The scan came back positive so from a medical aspect he’s a chance but Cameron Smith doesn’t come off the field if something isn’t going on," Cronk said. "The plus for us we have an eight-day turnaround and it gives us an extra day but if he’s even got a tear that can be slightly aggravated playing then it’s a no brainer he needs to sit out until it heals."
Cronk was adamant whenever Smith does return, he needs to acknowledge his outstanding milestone.
"He (Smith) won’t want to make it all about him but sometimes he needs to take front and centre because he deserves the accolades," Cronk said.
"Whether it’s this week or next week when he plays his 350th, Cameron Smith deserves to be front and centre of the celebrations because it’s a massive milestone.
"350 is a massive milestone. He’s contributed to rugby league in more ways than other people have and he will go down as one of the greatest players to ever lace the boots."
In the meantime, Cronk and the Storm won’t get distracted by any team injuries as they concentrate on fierce adversaries Manly on Sunday afternoon. It’s an important match as Melbourne readies themselves for the finals but you won’t find Cronk gazing towards September.
"You can’t have wishful thinking of the first weekend of October because if you start looking there, you lose focus of things that get you to that point," Cronk said.
"The reason we will be successful this year is through hard work, not through anything else. It’s about doing the things from Monday to Friday to make you better individually and for the team to get better."