Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy is unlikely to rest stars Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk even if the Storm seal a top-two NRL finish with a win this weekend over Manly.
The ladder-leading Storm sit five points ahead of third-placed Canberra and can secure a crucial home final in week one of the playoffs with victory over the Sea Eagles at Brookvale Oval on Saturday night in round 24.
However, Bellamy said on Wednesday he feared his side’s continuity and momentum could be affected if representative stars Smith and Cronk took a rest over the final fortnight of the regular season.
“They are getting through it all pretty well at the moment,” Bellamy said at Storm training at Sydney’s Coogee Oval.
“They are feeling well and they are playing well and we feel we need those boys playing because we need a bit of practice with our attack.
“We haven’t scored a whole heap of points the last three or four weeks and we think that needs sharpening up a bit.
“It is hard to sharpen that up in match conditions if you haven’t got your halfback and dummy-half there.”
Bellamy said the Storm had learned from their ill-fated 2011 campaign, after they rested Smith, Cronk and Billy Slater for their final game of the season against Sydney Roosters, having already wrapped up a top-two finish.
The Storm were belted 40-8 by the 11th-placed Roosters in that game, a result that Bellamy said hurt them coming into the finals.
Under the old finals system, minor premiers the Storm struggled to beat eight-placed Newcastle at AAMI Park in the first week of the finals in 2011 and were then sensationally dumped out of the premiership race at home two weeks later, losing to the Warriors 20-12 in the preliminary final.
Just two weeks before, the Warriors had been thumped 40-10 by Brisbane.
“A win (over Manly) gives us that option (of resting players),” Bellamy said.
“But I know that in 2011, we rested our ‘Big Three’ then in the last game of the year and, looking back, I reckon it affected our momentum going into those finals and we were not quite what we expected to be in the finals.
“You can look at it both ways. At their age, they (Smith and Cronk) are getting a bit old so they need a bit more rest but, the older you get, the more your body adapts.”
Melbourne have spent the week in Sydney after losing to the Raiders on Monday in Canberra.
Both Smith and Cronk are on limited training duties this week.