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Slater, Hinchcliffe knock back Ryles overtures

The inexperienced squad the Storm will take to the Perth Nines would have had a different look if either of a pair of club greats had accepted an offer from stand-in coach Jason Ryles.

Legendary fullback Billy Slater and club favourite Ryan Hinchcliffe received offers to play from Ryles, but both decided their retirement was permanent.

Now Ryles will take an inexperienced Storm outfit to the pre-season showcase, with Sandor Earl and Tui Kamikamica co-captains of a squad that includes star playmaker Cameron Munster.

A host of fringe players and a sprinkling of youth make up the majority of the Storm squad.

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Ryles said while Slater was quick to rule out a cameo, Hinchcliffe gave the idea some thought.

"It was more in jest, but we asked Billy and we asked Ryan Hinchliffe," Ryles told NRL.com.

"Hinchy thought about it, but Billy said no straight away. So we knew where we stood there and it was never too serious."

While the lack of household names among the Storm's squad suggests it may be hard for them to compete against some of the stronger squads, Ryles said anything was possible.

"If you compete hard and play the best you can then you never know what is going to happen," Ryles said of the Nines.

Sandor Earl will be one of Melbourne's captains at the Perth Nines.
Sandor Earl will be one of Melbourne's captains at the Perth Nines. ©melbournestorm.com.au

"Sometimes some things might not go your way and before you know it the game is over, so you need to make sure you are competing hard and to give yourself the opportunity to win each game."

One player sure to be closely monitored in Perth is young halfback Cooper Johns, who is in the running to partner Munster in the halves this season.

Ryles said the 20-year-old had been impressive throughout the pre-season and who starts the year in the purple No.7 jersey appears to be a three-way race between Johns, Jahrome Hughes and off-season recruit Ryley Jacks.

"He [Johns] is certainly in the frame, but it is going to come down to how he trials and how Craig [Storm coach Craig Bellamy] sees the makeup of the team," Ryles said.

"But he has put the hours in over the last two or three years on the field and off the field and he has given himself every opportunity.

"He works hard, is a real student of the game and has some pretty handy teachers in [dad] Matty and [uncle] Andrew Johns."

The Storm have been drawn in a pool with Brisbane, Manly and North Queensland at the Nines, with their opening match coming against the Sea Eagles on Friday night.

Get your tickets to the 2020 NRL Nines in Perth at nrl.com/tickets.

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