Hughes proving versatility can pay off
Melbourne Storm utility back Jahrome Hughes' life in the No.7 jersey is helping him disprove the notion that versatility can prove a hindrance for players in the NRL.
In the same season that Penrith Panthers player Tyrone Peachey parlayed his ability to cover multiple positions into a NSW Blues jersey, Hughes' ability to excel in different positions is proving an advantage in Melbourne.
Brodie Croft and Ryley Jacks had been handed the halfback jersey at various stages of 2018 but are now behind Hughes in the pecking order.
Storm coach Craig Bellamy said Hughes' performances were deserving of more game time.
"Billy [Slater] didn't play for a long period of time, and Jahrome came in and did a great job at fullback," he said.
"He deserved to stay in the team. With that halfback position, at that stage, we thought he was the best man for the job.
"We thought he deserved to stay there and thought he handled last week. There's still a couple of things he needs to improve on but as he gets more game time he'll do that."
Bellamy said Hughes' ideal position is still in the No.1 jersey, but his ability to cover other positions was there for all to see.
"Fullback's his best spot, be we could see him playing in the centres or on the wing if he had to," he said.
"We think he's a good, smart footy player and picks up things really quickly. He's got a lot of natural ability speed-wise and game-sense wise."
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The Storm enter round 20 in first place, with a superior for-and-against placing them above South Sydney and St George Illawarra. Bellamy said the tightness that existed at the top of the ladder guaranteed an exciting conclusion of the home and away season.
"It's probably been more congested at the top of the eight, rather than the bottom of the eight," he said.
"It's a real tight competition. It's obviously a good thing for the fans if they've got their team in the top eight, but below that it probably hasn't been so good."
After scoring a grinding win over the Warriors last weekend, the Storm can expect a more open contest against the attack-minded Raiders.
"We'll need to defend really well, that will be our main focus," Bellamy said.
"They've got a lot of areas in their attack. Sometimes a team will be dangerous in that part of the field, but not so much in other places, whereas the Raiders are [that] just all over the field."