Storm sweat on new hooker's fitness - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Storm sweat on new hooker's fitness

By Guy Hand 30/03/2009 07:45:17 PM Comments (0)

Melbourne's successful experiment with skipper Cameron Smith at five-eighth is likely to need at least one new ingredient should they use it in the NRL match against Gold Coast this weekend.

Replacement hooker Ryan Hinchcliffe, who stepped admirably into Smith's shoes at dummy-half in the 26-12 win over North Queensland, is in serious doubt for Saturday night's match at Olympic Park because of concussion.

Coach Craig Bellamy shifted Smith from hooker to starting five-eighth, allowing Greg Inglis to move to the centres and unleash havoc on the Cowboys.

But Hinchcliffe's ability to hold down dummy-half was pivotal in the strategy.

His looming absence could mean a more conventional approach against the Titans.

Bellamy has floated young five-eighth/halfback James Maloney as the likely addition to the squad should tests this week rule out Hinchcliffe.

"We're certainly not going to take any chances with him (Hinchcliffe) at this time of year and certainly you don't take any risks with head injuries either," Bellamy said.

"If he misses out we'll probably put James Maloney in there.

"He's been playing really well with our feeder team, and he's a halfback.

"But he's played a little bit of dummy-half in the trials so he'll probably be the guy that comes in if Ryan misses out."

Bellamy said the tactic of using Smith at five-eighth to allow Inglis to be more damaging out wide was something the Storm would look to do throughout the season.

"We'll keep playing around with it and use it if we think it's of benefit to the team," Bellamy said.

"I think it could be of real benefit to us if we can get it down-pat."

Bellamy is unsure whether forward Sika Manu will be fit to play after missing all three matches so far with a hamstring problem.

He is also toying with adding prop Matt Cross to the squad to play the Titans - giving the 27-year-old a run against his former club.

"He's been enthusiastic in his training, the first in, the last to go," Bellamy said of Cross.

"It would be nice to put him in against his old club."

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