Bellamy backs young gun to step up for Storm
MELBOURNE Storm coach Craig Bellamy has declared Brodie Croft ready to step up in place of champion halfback Cooper Cronk.
Bellamy will bestow the No. 7 jersey on Croft for Friday night's World Club Challenge against Super League champions Leeds Rhinos at AAMI Park.
Croft, 20, has played just five NRL games in two seasons working under Cronk, who signed with Sydney Roosters in the off-season.
"He couldn't have done too much more than what he's done," Bellamy said.
"He's training really hard and (is) very competitive. Hopefully he'll get the rewards for having a really good pre-season."
Croft, Curtis Scott and Brandon Smith have been the standouts of the World Cup-interrupted pre-season, which robbed Storm of the chance to integrate the next generation with the old guard.
After helping Australia win the World Cup, Cameron Smith, Billy Slater and Will Chambers returned to training only recently.
Cameron Munster and Felise Kaufusi (Australia), Suliasi Vunivalu (Fiji) and Kenny Bromwich (New Zealand) were also on World Cup duty.
More time would have been ideal for Croft to build a rapport, but Bellamy is confident the Queenslander is up to the task.
"It's not easy for a young halfback to come into a team that's just won the premiership and use his authority," Bellamy said.
"We would have liked a bit more time … to work out combinations with those blokes."
Christian Welch, returning from a knee reconstruction, could line up against the Rhinos after excelling in last week's trial against Newcastle.
Recruit Sam Kasiano (ankle) has been ruled out and Josh Addo-Carr (hamstring) is doubtful.
The "greatest ever" Storm team will be announced at the club's 20th anniversary gala on March 2.
Careful not to give too much away, Bellamy confirmed the wingers and centres had caused the biggest headaches.
"There was a couple of guys especially unlucky to miss out, but that's the way it goes when you're picking 17 players out of 180-odd that have played for Storm," he said.