Melbourne, Queensland and Australia are on the hunt for a new centre after Will Chambers was sidelined for three months with a fractured foot on Wednesday.
Chambers has undergone surgery on his foot after suffering the injury in the Storm’s NRL loss to Canterbury on Monday night, after initially thinking he’d only rolled his ankle.
The incumbent Test and State of Origin centre is the third long-term casualty in Melbourne’s backline. Test fullback Billy Slater is out for the season following shoulder surgery and promising young centre Curtis Scott is absent with a broken leg.
Since returning to the Storm in 2012 after a stint in rugby union, the durable Chambers has only missed two games through injury since that season’s qualifying final.
He played out the AAMI Park round seven match against the Bulldogs, however scans on Tuesday revealed the extent of the injury.
“It wasn’t until his foot swelled overnight after the game that we thought something more serious had happened,” Melbourne Storm football director Frank Ponissi said.
“We are extremely disappointed to lose Will. He’s an important part of our team and has been a consistent part of our line-up for the last three seasons, resulting in well-deserved selection in the Queensland State of Origin and Australian Kangaroos sides.”
Chambers cemented his place in the Queensland side last year and made his Kangaroos debut against the Kiwis at Suncorp Stadium in May last year.
Chambers is no chance of playing in this year’s Anzac Test on May 6 and faces an uphill battle to play any part in the Maroons’ Origin campaign with two games in June and a third on July 13.
Greg Inglis could now partner winger Dane Gagai in the Queensland centres with Darius Boyd likely to start at fullback in the absence of Slater.
The Storm won’t announce Chambers’ replacement for their NRL clash with Wests Tigers on Sunday until just prior to kick-off.
Their centre combination was already make-shift with Ben Hampton partnering Chambers there against the Bulldogs.
Cameron Munster, their first-choice centre alongside Chambers, had already shifted to fullback to replace Slater.
Ponissi was trying to stay positive.
“While we’ve suffered some injuries to our outside back stocks in the early part of the season, it provides us another chance to give an opportunity to some of our younger players who have shown consistent form with our feeder teams,” Ponissi said.