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Just one week after facing a premature end to his sparkling National Rugby League career, Melbourne Storm halfback Matt Orford has been named in the club?s season opener against the Newcastle Knights this Sunday.
The 25-year-old is set to go head-to-head with the game?s best player Andrew Johns, after Storm coach Craig Bellamy named Orford in a 19-man squad for Sunday?s clash at Olympic Park (2.30pm).
Orford was last week cleared of a blood clot to the base of his brain and despite still suffering headaches, will resume full training today (2pm, Olympic Park).
Bellamy is confident his number one halfback can recover from a severe inner-ear infection in time for the Storm?s first match of the 2004 Telstra Premiership.
?We?ll see how he (Orford) goes throughout the week, he?s still not feeling 100 per cent so we?ll just keep an eye on him at training,? Bellamy said.
?Hopefully he?ll be fine but we?ll have to make a few plans in case he isn?t.?
Bellamy is reticent to divulge his plans in case Orford doesn?t play, but admitted he has a couple of options up his sleeve including halfback Andrew McFadden.
?We?ll have a look at a few things if need be,? Bellamy added.
?He (McFadden) has only played the one game in the pre-season and he hasn?t played a lot of football due to injury, but he did get through last week with Brisbane Norths so that?s a good sign.?
Orford is hopeful of getting through this week?s build-up to Sunday?s match.
?I feel a little bit heavy in the head still and have the odd headache but other than that the body is fine,? Orford said.
?I?ll try to push myself early in the week and see how the body holds up, I suppose I?ll have to do some contact work sometime during the week and take it from there.
?It?s important to have some quality sessions early in the week so you can get that confidence in tough situations and know you?re not going to wander off mentally.?
Veteran front-rower Rodney Howe has nudged out former Parramatta forward Alex Chan in the race to start alongside prop Robbie Kearns.
It will be the first time the Kearns/Howe combination has been in action for the Storm since round two last year, when Howe tore his knee up against Penrith. It will be just the fifth time in two years the pair has played together in a regular NRL match.
Former Penrith fullback Steve turner is also in the mix after being named on an extended bench with young hooker Nathan Friend.
Uncompromising second-rower Danny Williams is also on the bench. Kirk Reynoldson and New Zealander Glen Turner round out the squad.
MELBOURNE STORM TEAM TO PLAY THE NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS, SUNDAY MARCH 21, AT OLYMPIC PARK (2.30PM):
1. Billy Slater 2. Matt Geyer 3. Matt King 4. Ben MacDougall 5. Fifita Moala 6. Scott Hill 7. Matt Orford 8. Robbie Kearns 9. Cameron Smith 10. Rodney Howe 11. Peter Robinson 12. Stephen Kearney (c) 13. David Kidwell