Melbourne NRL coach Craig Bellamy says budding halves Ben Hampton and Ben Roberts are key with Cooper Cronk still a month out from an injury return.
Injured No.7 Cooper Cronk is still up to a month away from playing again, prompting Melbourne NRL coach Craig Bellamy to challenge Ben Roberts and Ben Hampton to continue to build on their budding halves partnership.
Roberts and Hampton delivered their best performance of the season in the Storm’s 46-20 win over Parramatta and will play their fourth full game together against St George Illawarra on Monday night at WIN Stadium.
Bellamy said the partnership was integral to his team’s push toward the finals, with Cronk still to resume full training following his broken arm in the opening State of Origin last month.
“We’ve had a bit of upheaval in the halves throughout the year but those guys are getting used to each other and the other players are starting to get used to them as well so, hopefully, we can keep building on that combination,” Bellamy said.
“Hopefully, we can keep building that communication and they can serve the team well.
“They have a challenge to continue their improvement over the next few weeks.”
The duo will line up against former Melbourne playmaker Gareth Widdop and Benji Marshall, who knocked back a one-year deal to play with the Storm in favour of a long-term deal at the Dragons.
Bellamy believed Marshall had given the Dragons a boost after returning to league following a failed stint in rugby union.
“He’s taken a bit of pressure off Gareth so Gaz can do a bit more of his individual stuff that he’s really good at.
“Having Josh Dugan out on the right edge working with Marshall has been a positive for them as well.”
The Storm are gunning for their third successive win to consolidate a top-eight spot while the Dragons are 13th after two successive losses.
Bellamy said a decision wouldn’t be made until closer to game day on centre Will Chambers, who cut his leg after scoring two tries against Gold Coast in round 14.
The cut is in an awkward position at the bottom on his knee with the Storm wary of infection.
The coach said he hoped Chambers could return to take injured Brent Tate’s place in the Queensland Origin team.
“You’d think his time has come because he’s been in the camp the last three or four times without getting a run.
“Probably at this stage, he won’t play on Monday but he should be right for Origin.”