Melbourne NRL coach Craig Bellamy is expecting Cooper Cronk to do his best to plead his case to play against Penrith but won’t let the injured star halfback make the final call.
Cronk played in Queensland’s opening State of Origin win on Wednesday night in Sydney after badly injuring his ankle at training leading up to the match.
With the Storm hosting the Panthers on Saturday night at AAMI Park, Bellamy said it would be “hard to imagine” his No.7 playing.
Their other Origin representative, skipper Cameron Smith, came through unscathed and was already back at Storm headquarters, however Cronk’s flight from Sydney was delayed due to fog at Melbourne airport which meant his medical check had to be put back.
Bellamy said Cronk would be desperate to suit up.
“They’re always keen to back up those guys,” Bellamy said of the pair.
“They pride themselves on backing up for their club after they play Origin but it would be hard to imagine Cooper playing.
“If he thinks he’s right, he’ll be very persuasive but I’ll be going more on the doctor than what Cooper says.”
Back-rower Tohu Harris ran at halfback in their final training session in the absence of Cronk, again proving his versatility after filling in playing in the centres following a series of injuries to the Storm’s outside backs.
That crisis has eased with Curtis Scott, Young Tonumaipea and Richie Kennar all available after being sidelined.
Cheyse Blair and Ryan Morgan have been named to face the Panthers but Bellamy says that could change.
“We might use Young tomorrow night but it will be good to see all those guys playing again and, hopefully, they can put a bit of pressure on the guys who are playing first grade at the moment and we’ll have some real competition there,” Bellamy said.
The second-placed Storm are gunning for six straight and boast an impressive record against Penrith, winning nine of their past 10.
But Bellamy said their defence would be tested by the eighth-placed Panthers.
“They’re hard to handle; they do a lot of offloading and change of direction in their attack so, if you don’t defend well, you’re going to be in trouble and won’t get the result you want.”