Stathi Paxinos June 08, 2012
Storm's Ryan Hoffman. Photo: Getty Images
MELBOURNE Storm players would be motivated to make Craig Bellamy's 250th game as a coach a memorable one in tonight's clash with Wests Tigers, despite Bellamy's wish to downplay the achievement, stand-in captain Ryan Hoffman said yesterday.
Bellamy this week declared he had no intention of making a big deal of the milestone, saying ''it's pretty easy sitting up there in the box when all the players are out there getting knocked around, they're the milestones that we value''.
Hoffman however did not agree with Bellamy's dismissal, laughing it off with a ''that's Craig'' before saying ''we'll mention it within the playing group and make sure it's kept within the playing group''.
''Craig's been fantastic for this club,'' Hoffman said. ''I've been very proud to have been here from the time he started and he's made me the footballer I am and I'm sure plenty other players would agree with that statement … He's done great things for the game and great things for the club and it's obviously a huge milestone for him and it means a lot to him and it definitely means a lot to the players.''
But the Storm, which sits three wins clear at the top of the table, faces one of its toughest challenges of the season against the Tigers, who are winless in Melbourne from eight games, but are on debut at AAMI Park tonight.
The Tigers have won their past six games, after losing five of their first six, and arrive in Melbourne at near full strength, with captain Robbie Farah in New South Wales state-of-origin camp. The Storm is without its three Queensland representatives, skipper Cameron Smith, Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk.
The Storm also suffered another blow this week when centre Will Chambers was sidelined indefinitely after he was diagnosed with a blood-clotting disorder. Justin O'Neill is expected to move to centre with Sisa Waqa coming in on the wing.
Hoffman was confident they can cover the losses.
''The three players who are missing are key-position players and they are very hard players to replace but we know that we've got the depth,'' Hoffman said.
''These guys have been playing really good footy in reserve grade and when they have had their opportunity coming off the bench and so forth in first grade they've really done the job, so this is their opportunity to really stake their claim [so] if we are going to need them at the back end of the season we know they can do the job.
''Over the years we've always had a few players in origin so it's been trial and error and I think we're starting to get a good combination. The boys did all right over the origin period last year.
''We're going to have guys, even though they're young they have a lot of first-grade experience, too, so it's an exciting time for the club.''
Tonight will be the first time former Storm favourite Adam Blair will play against his old club. The high-profile Tigers recruit was heavily criticised for underwhelming form early in the season, but has improved in recent weeks.
''When you've got class players like Adam Blair it was always going to be a tough time adjusting to a new team,'' Hoffman said. ''From what I've seen watching video during the week, he's been in great form for the Tigers.
''He's a real leader, he's a key attribute for them and I know he's going to be out for a big game against us.''
Hoffman also said he had not given up on an origin recall for the final game this year after being mentioned as a possible selection for the origin opener before he was injured. ''I definitely hold out hopes,'' Hoffman said. ''I've been really happy with the way my form has been this year. If called upon I know that I can do the job for NSW but the selectors have picked the teams who they think will do the job and I think it's a very good team, too.''