After resting a number of top-line players for last week?s clash with Manly, Melbourne Storm will welcome back a host of stars for this week?s first semi final against the Broncos at Suncorp Stadium.
Billy Slater (groin), Matt Orford (shoulder) and Robbie Kearns (foot) all sat out last week?s trip to Manly while key forwards Stephen Kearney (knee) and Kirk Reynoldson (calf) were late omissions, but all five have been recalled for Melbourne?s clash with the Broncos this Saturday night.
Despite today?s inclusion of several big name players, an injury cloud still hangs over Kearney, Reynoldson and Kiwi forward Glen Turner, who suffered a calf injury in the loss to Manly last Sunday.
Reynoldson has lined up for the Storm just once in the past five weeks due to an ongoing calf injury while Kearney withdrew from the Sea Eagles match at the eleventh hour after his right knee blew up in transit to Sydney.
Despite having played only a handful of minutes since Round 21, Queensland-born Reynoldson is desperate to take the field on Saturday night.
?It?s pretty much a fairytale to be playing a semi final up there against the Broncos and I?m doing everything I can to get my calf right and take my place in the side,? Reynoldson said.
?The past few weeks have been tough, you think you?re right for the weekend, you spend all week in rehab and then you get to the training session before the game and it pulls up crook - I think it?s worse than actually knowing that you?ll definitely be out from the start.?
After a less then ideal preparation for the finals the 25-year-old isn?t willing to risk further injury by returning too early.
?I hadn?t missed a game for three years and now I?ve missed a few leading up to the finals, I would have liked to get a bit of match fitness under my belt but that?s the way it goes,? Reynoldson added.
?I don?t want to play if I?m only 50 per cent, I?ll just be letting myself and the team down so I want to be at my fighting best when I get out there.?
Bellamy was happy with his team?s performance against the Sea Eagles last week, in particular the form of Melbourne?s younger brigade, but knows this week?s inclusions will have a significant impact on the team.
?The inclusions of Slater, Orford, Kearns, Kearney will obviously make us a better team but the young blokes did a really good job last week so if we need them during the rest of the series then we?ll know they?ll be up for it,? Bellamy said.
The former Broncos assistant coach will closely monitor the progress of his three injured forwards this week in the hope that at least two will be able to make the trip north.
?We?ve got 19 players there to pick from and we?ve still got a couple of injuries with Reynoldson, Kearney and Glen Turner but hopefully two of the three can come up or we?ll be looking for someone else,? Bellamy added.
?Reynoldson hasn?t played much footy and nor has GT (Turner) over the past few weeks, so we?ve just got to keep an eye on them and see what we think will be the best option if they all come up.?
Bellamy also believes the Broncos? form in recent weeks will count for nothing heading into the finals, with several key personnel set to return this week.
?They?ve basically been in that top four position for a while so I?m sure some of those players that haven?t been playing would have played if the games had meant something to get into the top four,? he said.
?They?ll be 100 per cent on Saturday night but we?ve been in pretty good form ourselves.?
Andrew McFadden, Antonio Kaufusi and Robert Tanielu have all been omitted to make way for the Storm?s key inclusions this week.
STORM COACH CRAIG BELLAMY WILL AVIALABLE TO THE MEDIA PRIOR TO TRAINING TODAY AT 2PM OLYMPIC PARK (enter via green gate behind OP sports medicine centre)
MELBOURNE STORM TEAM TO PLAY THE BRISBANE BRONCOS, SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 11, AT SUNCORP STADIUM (6.30PM):
1. Billy Slater 2. Matt Geyer 3. Steven Bell 4. Ben MacDougall 5. Matt King 6. Scott Hill 7. Matt Orford 8. Robbie Kearns 9. Cameron Smith 10. Rodney Howe 11. David Kidwell 12. Stephen Kearney (c) 13. Dallas Johnson
14. Alex Chan 15. Ryan Hoffman 16. Glen Turner 17. Cooper Cronk 18. Kirk Reynoldson 19. Steve Turner STORM TRAINING THIS WEEK Tuesday: 2pm, Olympic Park Wednesday: 10am, Olympic Park & 2pm, Olympic Park