Former bad boy Jayden Nikorima is in line to play his first NRL match in more than six years with Cameron Munster likely to be ruled out of Melbourne’s Thursday night clash with Manly.
After suffering an AC joint injury in State of Origin II, Munster didn’t train with the Storm in their final session on Thursday with Nikorima and utility Chris Lewis running at five-eighth.
“He is battling to pass the ball,” said Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy of the Queensland playmaker.
“We’ll see how he pulls up this afternoon … I wouldn’t say he’s likely but we will see how he cools down.
“When we know he’s definitely out we’ll decide on them two (Nikorima and Lewis).
Nikorima has only played seven NRL games, back in 2016, and was sacked by the Sydney Roosters a year later after failing a drugs test.
Bellamy said the talented 25-year-old had taken some time to learn the Storm ways since joining the club in the pre-season.
“He probably didn’t see the effort areas as important when he first come but he’s had a really good last four or five weeks up in the Queensland Cup so he’s settled into what we see as important,” Bellamy said.
Manly coach Des Hasler says his side isn’t preoccupied with the brilliant Munster, who scored two tries to set up the Storm’s 28-8 victory over the Sea Eagles in round 12.
The Storm have long been known for their “next man up” approach and Hasler expects their opponents will account for his absence if he is a no-show a 4 Pines Park.
“There’s another bloke floating around the back there called (Ryan) Papenhuyzen and he might be a bit handy at the back.
“They’re not sitting second on the table because they can’t handle adversity. They’re very well prepared.”
The 10th-placed Sea Eagles could finish the round in the top eight for the first time in two months with a win, but a loss could push them down to 11th.
“We know what these games are,” Hasler said.
“The last month of football, we’ve probably been a bit inconsistent but we’re getting better.”
Hasler said his side wouldn’t be haunted by their last performance at 4 Pines Park.
In round 15, Manly led North Queensland 26-12 with eight minutes to play but conceded three late tries and ultimately lost 28-26.
“That was a really hard learning experience,” Hasler said.
“For 72 minutes, we had that side well and truly where we needed them to be. But we’ve got to find a way to win, it’s as simple as that.”
Hasler confirmed both Manly’s Origin players, Jake Trbojevic and Daly Cherry-Evans, would line up.