Cameron Smith and Johnathan Thurston were notable no-shows at the NRL finals series launch on Monday.
The skippers of all eight finals sides were expected at the launch at the SCG, however Smith and Thurston were late withdrawals.
Melbourne skipper Smith has a virus and North Queensland captain Thurston is battling a leg strain ahead of their respective qualifying final clashes against Sydney Roosters and Brisbane.
Both Smith and Thurston are expected to be fit for those games. But they are not without concern. Both the Storm and the Cowboys provided the NRL with doctor’s certificates noting their players injuries ahead of the media opportunity at the SCG.
Smith’s teammates are said to have noticed he was struggling late in the Storm’s 15-8 win over Brisbane on Thursday, as Melbourne played their third game in 12 days.
Meanwhile Cowboys medical staff were concerned as to how the travel from Townsville may affect Thurston’s injury, given North Queensland have to fly to Brisbane on Friday for their match at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday.
The Roosters host Melbourne at Allianz Stadium on Friday.
Ryan Hinchliffe, who the Storm pointed out is the only player to captain the club apart from Smith over the last two seasons, stepped in.
Gavin Cooper stepped in for Thurston.
Despite the absence of two of the game’s superstars NRL boss Dave Smith was in a buoyant mood in launching the finals series.
“It is great to have all these captains here,” Smith said.
“This will be one of the most exciting finals series in history.”
Sydney Roosters’ Jake Friend, Brisbane’s Justin Hodges, South Sydney superstar Greg Inglis, Canterbury prop James Graham, St George Illawarra veteran Ben Creagh and Cronulla captain Paul Gallen were all in attendance.