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St George Illawarra star Mark Gasnier has passed an initial fitness test on his injured buttock muscle and is confident he will play in tomorrow night's must-win match against Newcastle.
Gasnier was put through his paces at Kogarah this morning and now only needs to come through a field work session to be cleared for a return.
The co-captain missed last week's narrow loss to the Bulldogs, having returned a week early for his first game in 2007 after missing the start of the season with a pectoral muscle tear.
Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy has done away with the club's captain rotation by anointing Cameron Smith as the Storm's sole skipper for the rest of the season.
Melbourne have used a leadership group for the past two years with the captaincy alternated week to week. But with the start of the finals five rounds away, the top-placed Storm have opted to make a major change to their leadership dynamics as they bid to go one better than last year and win the 2007 premiership.
Smith was one of five players selected by Bellamy before the start of the season in the club's leadership group. The other four were Dallas Johnson, Michael Crocker, Matt Geyer and Cooper Cronk.