NRL 2024; Melbourne Storm not letting Nelson Asofa Solomona go

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Melbourne Storm coach Craig Bellamy says he’s not expecting “miracles” as star playmaker Cameron Munster looms as an inclusion for Thursday’s blockbuster against the Broncos as he declared out-of-favour forward Nelson Asofa Solomona “has a contract” and isn’t going anywhere.

Munster is set to play his first game of the season having battled a baffling groin injury that Storm’s medical staff have struggled to get on top of and one that frustrated both the player and his coach.

The star five-eighth missed all of Melbourne’s pre-season trials as well but is likely to tackle Brisbane at AAMI Park, although how much game time he plays remains to be seen.

“There’s a pretty good chance that he might line up,” Bellamy said on Wednesday, with how Munster pulls up from the final training session set to determine whether he plays.

“As I’ve said before, the injury’s been fine or seems to be fine, then all of a sudden it flares up again. He’s had a couple of the sessions this week that he’s gone pretty well in, so hopefully he pulls up OK tomorrow after today’s session and then we’ll just we’ll just go from there.

“Cameron’s obviously a really experienced player too so we probably missed a little bit of that and we all know what he can do when he’s playing his best.

“We’re not going to expect miracles from him. He’s missed a lot of time training and he’s missed the trials and first four games of the season, so he’ll take him a little bit of getting back into it, I’d imagine.”

Bellamy said Munster’s young replacement, Jonah Pezet, had done a “good job for us” and he’d have no hesitation going to him again should he be needed.

While Munster is set for a return, Asofa-Solomona remains on the outer, making his way back to full fitness through the Queensland Cup after a series of hamstring injuries during the pre-season.

Amid reports Bellamy was upset with how heavy the 120kg forward was on his return to training, the coach dismissed suggestions Asofa-Solomona could be available to other clubs, labelling him a “real asset” when he’s up and going.

“That sort of private conversation is between me,” Bellamy said responding to a question about whether Asofa-Solomona was told to trim down.

“He’s an important part of our club. We just need him playing well. He’s had some real hamstring problems and he hasn’t done a lot of work in the pre-season, so that’s a little bit of the problem as well.

“We’re not gonna put him in until he’s ready. He’ll be a real asset to us if we can get him back in and when he gets that time under his belt training and some games. But like I say, he’s just short of that at the moment.

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

Bellamy dismissed the speculation over a potential move for Asofa-Solomona, who is contracted until the end of 2027, amid reported interest from the Dragons.

“At the end of the day, he’s got a contract. I don’t think that needs an answer, to be quite honest,” he said.

“It’s frustrating for all of us, you know. We know how much he adds to the team when he’s playing his best. Like I say, it’s just that situation where he missed a lot of our pre-season with a hamstring injury, and, I think it reoccurred a couple of times.

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

“But when we think he’s had enough time training and enough games in Queensland Cup, he’s going to be a real asset for us.”

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