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NRL News: Bellamy fires back at nasty NAS rumours, Slater slams Dragons' double standards, Brooks' advice for Galvin

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3rd April, 2024
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Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy has dismissed fears of a poaching raid on Nelson Asofa-Solomona while the wrecking-ball prop proves his fitness in reserve grade.

The 28-year-old was again left out of the Storm’s NRL side to face Brisbane on Thursday, named for a second-straight week for NSW Cup outfit North Sydney.

That follows a pre-season interrupted by hamstring issues and reports the 184-game veteran’s fitness level had not pleased his coach.

Bellamy said that was a “private conversation between him and me” and bristled at suggestions other clubs would be circling the 15-Test New Zealand battering ram, who is contracted to the Storm until the end of 2027.

St George Illawarra could be among the potential suitors, armed with salary-cap space once Zac Lomax leaves at the end of this season.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 25: Nelson Asofa-Solomona of the Storm looks on during the round seven NRL match between the Melbourne Storm and the New Zealand Warriors at AAMI Park, on April 25, 2022, in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

Nelson Asofa-Solomona. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

“They can say what they like, but at the end of the day he’s got a contract,” Bellamy said.

“He’s not in our 17 at the moment. That’s a private conversation between me and him.

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“It’s frustrating for all of us. We know how much he adds to the team when he’s at his best.”

Bellamy was hopeful Cameron Munster (groin) will play against the Broncos but was unwilling to put a timeline on Asofa-Solomona’s NRL return.

“Big guys like him, they need to train and be playing,” he said.

“He’s a bit underdone but when we think he’s had enough time … he’s going to be a real asset for us.

“I don’t know how long it’s going to take. He’s training full-on now and that’s a good sign.”

Slater slams Dragons’ double standards

Maroons coach Billy Slater has lashed St George Illawarra for granting Zac Lomax a release but refusing to allow Ben Hunt to go early.

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Lomax’s looming exit St George Illawarra exit is set to leave the Dragons as one of the most cashed-up NRL clubs in the market, as Shane Flanagan begins shaping his long-term roster.

Lomax was granted a release from the Dragons on Tuesday, allowing the unhappy winger to walk away from the club at the end of the year.

After the Dragons initially delayed talks on Lomax’s future last month, it had become clear the 24-year-old’s stance on wanting to play centre was not changing.

Hunt tried a similar tactic twice last year but the Dragons refused to budge.

Maroons coach Billy Slater walks out onto the field during game one of the 2023 State of Origin series between the Queensland Maroons and New South Wales Blues at Adelaide Oval on May 31, 2023 in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Maroons coach Billy Slater. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

“I remember when Ben Hunt asked for a release at the Dragons everyone was having a go at Ben Hunt and actually having a dig at his integrity … but then Zac Lomax wants to do it and everyone’s like, ‘Ah, OK, we’ll look at that if we can get a player in return’,” Slater said on his Nine podcast.

“For the club to have double standards like that, it’s got to work for both parties. It’s a little bit double standards when you’re accepting to or you’re open to releasing one sort of player. But you’re not going to look into a Ben Hunt situation.

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“What works for one doesn’t work for the other at the moment.”

Parramatta playmaker Dylan Brown is increasingly excited about the prospect of the Eels landing the freakish talents of Lomax.

“It’s all over my bloody Instagram, I see it everywhere,” Brown said on Wednesday, less than 24 hours after the Dragons agreed to let Lomax walk out on the remaining two years of his deal.

The Red V have agreed to cut ties with Lomax at the end of this season, freeing up salary cap space for the Dragons to become a major player in the NRL’s transfer market.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MAY 26: Dylan Brown of the Eels runs with the ball during the round 13 NRL match between Parramatta Eels and North Queensland Cowboys at CommBank Stadium on May 26, 2023 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

Dylan Brown. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

The decision also allows the 24-year-old Lomax to find a happy hunting ground after struggling to handle the expectation and constant positional switches that have marked his tenure at the Dragons.

Any hope of Lomax joining Parramatta this season would be dependent on the Dragons getting a player in return as part of a swap deal.

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Lomax has excelled on the wing for the Dragons this season but his natural position is at centre, with Brown of the belief he could add some spark to the Eels’ backline. 

“I haven’t heard a thing from our club but he’s a good player,” Brown said. “He’s a freak, he’s one of the best players at the Dragons so I’m sure they’re gutted to be losing him.”

News of Lomax’s potential arrival at Parramatta was met with a lukewarm response from Will Penisini, who has thrived in the Eels centres and become a mainstay of Brad Arthur’s backline in recent seasons. 

“I haven’t talked to anyone (about Lomax), but he’s obviously a quality player,” Penisini said.  “It doesn’t really bother me… if he comes he comes, if he doesn’t, he doesn’t. The more quality players we get it adds to our depth and competitiveness for spots, whichever club he goes to I know he’ll add that.”

Brown joked that Penisini was worried “Lomax might steal his position” but added: “Will backs his ability but it’s good to have healthy competition everywhere”.

Brooks says go easy on Galvin

Luke Brooks has warned fans and critics to go easy on Lachlan Galvin, desperate for the Wests Tigers’ new shiny toy to not face the same pressure he long felt.

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Galvin was the star of the show in the Tigers’ 17-16 Easter Monday win over Parramatta, laying on two tries in a coming-of-age performance.

The 18-year-old is already seen as the bright light of the battling joint-venture, who are desperate to end a run of 12 straight seasons out of the NRL finals.

But Brooks knows all too well how the story can play out.

He was only one day older than Galvin was when he made his NRL debut for the joint venture at the SCG in 2012, and was almost immediately labelled as the next Andrew Johns.

Galvin has so far avoided similar comparisons, with Tigers coach Benji Marshall seeing more similarities with former Melbourne premiership winner Scott Hill than any rugby league Immortal.

And it’s something Brooks is happy to see, adamant near-unattainable comparisons must be avoided for the sake of Galvin and other youngsters.

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“It’s hard on young kids if they’re coming through and getting compared to someone who has done it all in the game,” Brooks said.

“They’ve just got to let the kids be themselves. I haven’t seen any comparisons to Lachie which is a good thing because people should just let him be himself.

“By the looks of it, young kids don’t get too fazed. He looks confident.”

Brooks labelled the joint-venture’s win as a glimpse into the future, with young fullback Jahream Bula finishing off a late go-ahead try after a Galvin bust.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 01: Lachlan Galvin of the Tigers is tackled during the round four NRL match between Parramatta Eels and Wests Tigers at CommBank Stadium, on April 01, 2024, in Sydney, Australia.

(Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

But by the same token, he knows it won’t always be easy for the young Tiger cubs.

Brooks became the most scrutinised player in the game for the majority of his stint in black, orange and white, before he opted for a fresh start at Manly this year.

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And he doesn’t want the same pressure to fall on Galvin.

“Because he came into the NRL and no one really knows how he plays, they don’t have as much video on you,” Brooks said. “But once teams tend to start finding your weaknesses, that’s when it starts to get a bit harder.

“He has been playing some good footy and he’s definitely a great player, and one for the future. People have got to realise that he’s a young kid and he’s not going to be playing his best footy week in, week out.

Galvin will miss the clash with the Dolphins on Saturday night after copping a two-match ban for a hip-drop tackle.

Broncos back big Ben to make timely debut

Giant Brisbane prop Ben Te Kura has been backed to perform on his NRL debut in a baptism of fire against fierce rivals Melbourne at AAMI Park.

At 205cm, the 19-year-old will become the tallest player ever to feature in the NRL. He is five centimetres taller than Storm behemoth Nelson Asofa-Solomona, who has not been named for Thursday night’s showdown.

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Te Kura has got his opportunity due to a head knock at training for Xavier Willison, who drops off the bench.

“Aside from his monstrous frame, Ben has an appetite for the collision and some good footwork,” former Brisbane captain Corey Parker told AAP on Tuesday. “He has the ability to provide some decent offloads. That will all come for him, but at the moment he has a great opportunity to debut against a very strong club.

“I debuted against a real strong (Warriors) side and it can be good for you when you are playing in the middle.

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“Not that his job would change against a lesser side, but it is a great test for him against the Storm.”

Te Kura has been honing his craft in the Queensland Cup for Souths-Logan where he has shone. He also impressed in the pre-season trials for the Broncos.

“It is a bit of a reward for him for what he has been doing in the Queensland Cup that Kevvie (coach Kevin Walters) feels he can play first grade and has no qualms putting him in against Melbourne,” Parker said.

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“Big Ben will go alright. He’ll have to. Defensively, he will know who he is playing once (Storm hooker) Harry Grant comes out at him.”

The Broncos have not beaten the Storm at AAMI Park since 2016, losing their last seven games at the venue. They did get the better of Melbourne in last year’s finals series, winning 26-0 at Suncorp Stadium – an anomaly in their overall record.

“When Cameron Smith was playing for (Melbourne) in particular their style worried Brisbane and it is something that Craig Bellamy has continued,” Parker said.

“Last year it was a bit different (in the finals) because the style Brisbane play with now is different, particularly when (currently injured) Reece Walsh and Payne Haas are in the side.

“Now Brisbane like to shift the ball and back their ability.

“Previously Cameron Smith would shift the ball to an edge with one wide pass. You had to ask the middle forwards to fill up on a short side and if they were late getting there the Storm would attack.

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“If you put too many forwards on the short side, Smithy would come back to the middle. It was all just a game of numbers from his point of view.”

with AAP

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