Wednesday, 11 July 2012
Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy fears his side will be feeling the effects of the brutal State of Origin campaign for some time as they prepare to host North Queensland on Saturday.
Still clinging to the NRL competition lead, the faltering Storm have lost three of their past four games - the last to Canberra in a crushing 40-12 upset.
Melbourne were buoyed by the sight of Billy Slater running strongly on his injured knee at training on Wednesday, but Bellamy said the Test custodian wouldn't be back for the Cowboys.
Maroons and Storm skipper Cameron Smith also trained and is a certainty to play after being rested against the Raiders.
Queensland halfback Cooper Cronk sat out training but is also set for his 200th NRL game.
The master coach said the Origin effect could yet linger longer at the club.
"Just because the Origin is finished now, it doesn't mean the effects of Origin isn't going to linger for probably another two, three, four weeks," Bellamy said.
"Origin seems to be getting bigger and it seems to be getting more intense in the games and also in the build-up and it's taking more and more out of players.
"The games were close and quite brutal ... it's going to take a bit longer for some of the players to get over."
The elevation of Smith to the Queensland captaincy and Cronk to the starting halfback role added to the workload for the duo.
Bellamy has long campaigned for stand-alone Origin weekends but admitted he didn't know how it could be fitted into the season.
"It's taken a lot more out of the players than it ever has.
"It needs re-visiting ... stand-alone would be ideal but I don't really have the answers."
Undecided about the starting side to face the seventh-placed Cowboys, Bellamy named a 20-man squad for the AAMI Park clash, putting his under-performing players on notice.
He said despite Slater training twice this week, he wouldn't play.
"He didn't do any of the contact stuff ... I don't think we're going to see him on Saturday night.
"If he's 100 per cent next week, we'll play him but we're not going to take any chances."
Bellamy said he told some home truths to his side, which needed to improve their defence among other things.
"As a team, we needed a bit of a touch up and some individuals probably needed a little bit (of a) bigger touch-up.
"There's nothing too fatal there, we think, so hopefully we'll see a big improvement this week."