Cronk defection hurts
Bellamy would have preferred champion halfback to retire
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.”
BIG GAME: Melbourne Storm coach Craig Bellamy and Leeds Rhino's CEO Gary Hetherington pose with the World Club Challenge Trophy yesterday.