Cronk de­fec­tion hurts

Bel­lamy would have pre­ferred cham­pion half­back to re­tire

Geelong Advertiser - - SPORT - NICK SMART

MEL­BOURNE Storm coach Craig Bel­lamy un­der­stands Cooper Cronk’s de­fec­tion to Syd­ney Roost­ers, even if he doesn’t like it.

Speak­ing for the first time since Cronk, 33, an­nounced he would play on at the Roost­ers for the next two years, Bel­lamy said he ac­cepted the star play­maker’s de­ci­sion.

“I don’t par­tic­u­larly like him play­ing for an­other team, but at the end of his day it’s his de­ci­sion on what is best for him and what he wants to do,” Bel­lamy said.

“He’ll al­ways have my sup­port and the club’s sup­port in what­ever he wants to do; he has been a won­der­ful player and a won­der­ful per­son at our club.

“I would have pre­ferred he didn’t (play on), but I can un­der­stand why he has as you’re a long time re­tired.

“He ob­vi­ously wanted to play on, and that’s how it has worked out.”

As re­vealed yes­ter­day, Storm will meet English Su­per League cham­pion Leeds Rhi­nos in the World Club Chal- lenge at AAMI Park on Fe­bru­ary 16.

Storm’s Aus­tralian World Cup rep­re­sen­ta­tives will have only a few weeks’ prepa­ra­tion, but Bel­lamy still ex­pected to field a strong team.

Mel­bourne will also miss de­parted stars Jor­dan McLean (North Queens­land), Tohu Har­ris (New Zealand War­riors) and Cronk.

“It’s not the ideal time of the year, but it’s hard to find the ideal time of the year with a lot of things hap­pen­ing,” Bel­lamy said. “We will cer­tainly do our best to put our best team out there and I’m sure Leeds will do the same. It will be a car­rot for our play­ers to re­ally put in in the pre-sea­son to make sure we’re close to our best.

“It will be a dif­fer­ent team, but we take the men­tal­ity that there’s some peo­ple gone so there’s some po­si­tions up for grabs.”

Bel­lamy ex­pected Storm’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive stars to play.

“At this stage in their ca­reer, they love play­ing in big games and this is a re­ally big game,” he said.

“They’ll be keen and, if they’re ready to play, they’ll play.”

Pic­ture: MICHAEL DODGE/GETTY

BIG GAME: Mel­bourne Storm coach Craig Bel­lamy and Leeds Rhino's CEO Gary Hether­ing­ton pose with the World Club Chal­lenge Tro­phy yes­ter­day.

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