Storm set to rest Slater as Origin takes toll at several clubs
Melbourne have been hardest hit in the State of Origin wash-up with another two or three of their returning contingent set to join fullback Billy Slater in the stands for Saturday's grudge match against Manly.
While Slater came through his final game for Queensland unscathed, the Storm are planning to rest the veteran No.1 to manage his emotional and physical workload having missed a large part of 2018 due to injury.
The club's Origin contingent of Slater, Will Chambers, Josh Addo-Carr, Cameron Munster, Felise Kaufusi and Tim Glasby will meet the Storm in Sydney on Friday with a call to be made on their availability against the Sea Eagles to be made on game day.
Storm officials concede "quite a few" of their Origin stars could be missing from the clash at Lottoland, with outside backs Cheyse Blair and Young Tonumaipea, and halves options Ryley Jacks and Brodie Croft all in contention for a call-up.
"I think we'll probably be missing two or three at the moment but who they are but at the moment I'm not 100 per cent sure," coach Craig Bellamy said before his side's captains run in Melbourne.
"We're pretty sure Billy won't be playing but then we'll just check on the rest of them.
"He hasn't played a whole heap of footy this year but Origin games are hectic games, they're physical games and for Billy I imagine that was a very emotional game and emotionally draining for him.
"His last game up there, to get the result that they got and with how the results have gone in the first two games it was a big occasion for him."
Manly coach Trent Barrett expects both Trbojevic brothers to line up for the home side on Saturday, however he was less certain about Daly Cherry-Evans being able to lead the Sea Eagles after spearheading Queensland's victory at Suncorp Stadium.
Penrith will also rest their Blues trio of Nathan Cleary, Tyrone Peachey and James Maloney for Friday's showdown with Cronulla, with scans clearing Maloney of a foot fracture.
The Panthers captain will be in a moon boot for the next weekend with a foot injury sustained against Queensland, with the club to assess his fitness ahead of next Friday's trip to Brisbane.
The news is better at South Sydney, where Anthony Seibold expects Dane Gagai, Damien Cook and Angus Crichton to all back up against the Bulldogs on Saturday.
"Our intention is to play the guys," Seibold said on Friday morning.
"They pulled up really well after the game on Wednesday night. They had yesterday off, they came in this morning and I've spoken to all three of them.
"They're really keen to play and we're keen for them to play."
North Queensland pair Coen Hess and Gavin Cooper have come through their captain's run and will play against the Raiders in the nation's capital.
Canberra's Josh Papalii has also been cleared for the home side.
Both Latrell Mitchell and fullback James Tedesco may be kept on ice by the Roosters for their Sunday clash against the Titans, joining captain Boyd Cordner (rested) and Dylan Napa (knee) on the sidelines.
Calls on Origin stars at Brisbane and St. George Illawarra will be made over the weekend given both clubs don't play until Sunday.
Barrett is set to be without Dylan Walker for Manly meaning Curtis Scott probably won't line up against his round-11 protagonist at Brookvale.
The Sea Eagles are marketing this Saturday's clash as the 10th anniversary of their 2008 grand final demolition of the Storm, selling shirts and merchandise branded "40-nil" to commemorate the club's biggest triumph over their Victorian adversary, despite enduring one of their most forgettable seasons on record.
Scott was sent off for punching Dylan Walker in their last encounter in round 11 at AAMI Park, also getting suspended for two games. Bellamy hasn't felt the need to reprimand his young centre this week.
"Not really," he said.
"I think he learnt a lesson from the last one. He got two weeks, and that got turned into three or four weeks with Origin, the byes and whatever. That probably put him back a little bit."
Jesse Bromwich returns after missing three weeks with a hamstring injury, pushing prop Christian Welch to the bench.
But Melbourne's younger players have stepped up during Origin time, contributing to a five-game winning streak since their last defeat against Manly.
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"We've had some times over the last 16 years I've been here where we've been really good in Origin. And other times where we've been horrible results-wise. Five out of six during Origin period this year has been really good.
"Also we've had Curtis out for a couple of weeks, Jesse Bromwich and Dale (Finucane) have played hardly any footy during Origin.
"To do without our Origin players and those two has been very pleasing. We just need to keep that momentum going and when they come back in, we can keep the high standard."
Slater was a shock winner of Origin player of the series award but the Storm coach wasn't surprised about the fullback's performances in his final series.
"We know he handles big games and how he's always handled big games. Just look to the grand final last year after coming back from those injuries to his shoulder. When the big games are on, Billy's going to be on."