Bellamy ponders horses-for-courses halfbacks in finals
Melbourne Storm coach Craig Bellamy says he may adopt a "horses for courses" approach to Cameron Munster's partner in the halves in coming weeks after the once out-of-favour Brodie Croft has put himself back in the picture to play finals football.
Croft came into the side at halfback while Jahrome Hughes was injured after round 22, playing well against Parramatta and again in the 10-8 win over Gold Coast on Saturday.
Bellamy revealed that Hughes was fit to play but he stuck with Croft and enters new territory for the club in going into the finals without certainty at No.7 after the dominance of Cooper Cronk for so long.
Croft has played 13 games this season, Hughes has played five of his 10 games at halfback (five at fullback) while Ryley Jacks has played 12 games in the halves but the last in round 18.
It seems the decision is between Hughes, identified as Billy Slater's long-term fullback replacement, and Croft. But Bellamy says he won't hesitate to rotate and make a week-to-week decision depending on the opposition they confront.
"That's a good question, I'm not quite sure where we're at," Bellamy replied when asked about his position with his halves a fortnight from the finals.
"Brodie did a really good job last week and I thought he did a really good job today (against the Titans).
"We'll have a look at today's game and have a discussion with a couple of senior players and make a decision from there. It's not an easy one without a doubt but we will do what we think is best for the team.
"The amount of footy those guys have played is not a lot, especially for that position.
"There will be a little bit of who we think is going the best I suppose but it will have a bit to do with the opposition as well on what decision we make.
"Commonsense would say you'd like to go into next week (the final round clash with Penrith) and go through with the one half but if we think it's better going for one and even if he plays well go for another the week after depending on who we play, we will.
"We've swapped around all year and part of that has been my decision, part of it has been injuries as well.
"If we think it's best for the team throughout the final series we'll continue to do that … it will be week by week decision really."
Fortunately the Storm have plenty of experience and star-quality in the rest of the spine in skipper and hooker Cameron Smith, retiring fullback Billy Slater and Queensland five-eighth Cameron Munster to steer whoever wears the No.7 jersey.
Smith, who will obviously have input into who is best suited, said he had confidence in all Croft and Hughes.
"I'm happy with either one, I've played with three halfbacks this year and they're all young number sevens with not a lot of experience in that position," Smith said.
"They've played some great games, they've played some quiet games but they are out there learning still. That's where a lot of our squad are at at the moment, we have a lot of inexperience.
"It's what is best for the side and what the make-up will be best for our game plan and performance against whoever we are playing.
"I don't go in throwing my opinions around a lot, I've got a lot of trust in Craig and his coaching staff in what is the right thing for the team, if my opinion is asked I'll have some input then.
"Whichever way we go, I've got a lot of confidence in whoever goes in there."