Storm sweat on ‘touch and go’ Smith
MELBOURNE Storm captain Cameron Smith is rated "touch and go" to be cleared of a back problem for Saturday's game against the Gold Coast Titans.
With four players already ruled out, the reigning premier could be tempted to go down the conservative route with game-breaker Smith this close to the finals.
The Storm accepted a three-match ban for Will Chambers, with Nelson Asofa-Solomona (ankle), Suliasi Vunivalu (hamstring) and Brandon Smith (knee) also ruled out.
But Storm enforcer Jesse Bromwich backed in the club's young guns to step up.
"I think Cam's touch and go for this week maybe," Bromwich said on Monday at the official launch of the NRL's revamped All Star game, to be played in Melbourne next year.
"It's the next man up (mantra here) and that's the case this week, a few boys drop out and a few boys get opportunity.
"We've had injuries throughout the year, a lot of the boys have missed a lot of footy this year and whoever has come in has done a great job so I've got full confidence in the boys."
The Storm scratched reserves Sam Kasiano, Ryley Jacks, Justin Olam and Tui Kamikamica from Queensland Cup commitments at the weekend to avoid any further setbacks.
Playmaker Jahrome Hughes could also return, possibly in the utility role off the bench, after sitting out last week with a minor knee complaint.
Storm star and potential NRL Indigenous All Star Josh Addo-Carr brushed off concerns around combinations in the backfield with Vunivalu and Chambers out.
"We train together during the week so I'm confident whoever puts that jersey on will do the job," Addo-Carr said.
The NRL will kickstart its 2019 season in Melbourne with an Indigenous and Maori All Star men's and women's double-header on February 15.
Fans will get the chance to vote on the 20-man squads for the showpiece game, with no set limit on the number of eligible players from each club.
Laurie Daley and Michael Maguire are tipped to coach the respective All Star teams.
The Storm could be well represented with Addo-Carr, Bromwich, Asofa-Solomona, Smith, Jahrome Hughes and Kenny Bromwich vying for selection.
Bromwich hailed the First Nations celebration, having previously represented the World All Stars in 2015 against the Indigenous All Stars.
"I've been very lucky to play for the Kiwis in my time and all I've ever wanted to do is play for the Maori," Bromwich said.
"We're proud Kiwis but lots of my family are Maori … for me (this game is about) representing them and doing my best for our culture, which is a very proud and passionate one."
NRL head of football Brian Canavan expects all fans to rally behind the new All Stars.
"Rugby league is full tribalism, passion and power," Canavan said.
"These three ingredients are on display throughout the week culminating with the (All Star) game."
Tickets go on sale Monday for NRL members, starting at 20 for adults and $45 for a family.