Storm's Cronk to miss start of season - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Storm's Cronk to miss start of season

By Sam Lienert 09/12/2009 05:09:15 PM Comments (0)

Melbourne are facing a tough start to their NRL premiership defence with four players undergoing off-season surgery and the late arrival of eight representative stars seriously disrupting preparations for the 2010 campaign.

Halfback Cooper Cronk, unlucky not to be named Churchill Medallist in October's grand final victory over Parramatta, is expected to miss the first four games after undergoing groin surgery.

Forwards Brett White, Ryan Tandy and former Bulldog John Kite are also expected to be sidelined early in the season following shoulder operations.

The injury setbacks come on top of a heavy player turnover, including the loss of premiership players Dallas Johnson (Les Catalans), Steve Turner (Canterbury) and Will Chambers (Queensland Reds).

And the Storm also have to cope with eight players not starting their pre-seasons until mid-January, having come off international commitments - six with Australia and two with New Zealand - which coach Craig Bellamy said made it harder to integrate new players into their combinations.

Bellamy said Cronk had been hampered by a groin problem for two seasons and the club had decided it was in his long-term interests to finally get it fixed.

The club would have preferred the surgery to have been done immediately after the grand final victory, but had to delay it so he could be part of Australia's successful Four Nations tour to the UK and France.

"We ummed and aahed, he's been carrying this problem for two years now and really struggled towards the end of this season," Bellamy said.

"You wouldn't have thought it, the way he played in the semi-finals was outstanding.

"But he didn't do a lot of training throughout those weeks and the amount of rehab he had to do to get ready for those games, there's not too many guys that would have put that amount of work in.

"... We're certainly not happy about missing him for the first month or so (of the 2010 season), but at the end of the day it's going to be a lot better for him and a lot better for the team that he's having this procedure done now."

Bellamy said Brett Finch could replace Cronk in the halfback role early in the season, or one of the club's promising young players, such as under-20s No.7 Luke Kelly, might step up.

"They're not Cooper Cronk, but at the end of the day those young guys are looking for a chance and perhaps they'll get it early in the season," Bellamy said.

The Storm also suffered a front-row crisis this year and Bellamy said the unavailability of White, Tandy and Kite would be a challenge.

"They're obviously three of our front-rowers and three of the guys that add a bit of size to our team, so that's not ideal," he said.

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