Amid the frenzy over Craig Bellamys coaching future, Melbourne Storm captain Cameron Smith will make his return from suspension when his side faces North Queensland Cowboys on Friday night.
Smith was suspended for a dangerous contact tackle two weeks ago and cast a frustrated figure as the rudderless Storm lost 24-4 to Manly last week.
Both Bellamy and Smith were quietly furious with the ban, just the second of Smiths career, but wouldnt challenge it at the judiciary due to the risk of Smith being suspended for two games.
While Bellamy was hit with over 12 minutes of questions and answers on Thursday about whether he will coach the Storm or move to the Brisbane Broncos, he also took a late question on Smiths return revealing his captain was hurt about his plight.
The struggling Cowboys would be wise to keep a tight defensive lock on Smith when the two sides clash in Townsville, while star prop Jesse Bromwich is also set to return after missing several games with a knee injury.
“It was tough for him last week to miss a game as he doesnt miss many but the circumstance was one he was really upset with,” Bellamy said.
“Getting that charge. We think he was really hard done by but he thought it was the safe way to take that early plea.
“We had different opinions at the club but we backed him all the way. It was fairly harsh and he was genuinely upset he got that charge.”
Bellamy added the Storm met from the match review committee who explained their thinking on the charge.
“They were good enough to come down and explain their side of it so its a little bit clearer, but we still think it was a little bit harsh but you just roll with the punches," Bellamy said.
The Storm have vowed not to be distracted as Bellamy ponders his future and they have more immediate concerns around correcting their error count and poor attacking form.
The Cowboys have fallen down the standings this season but will lift for the Storm who beat them in last years grand final while Cowboys star half-back Johnathan Thurston could be playing his last game against good mate Smith and the Storm whom he has tormented for many years.
The two sides have already played during pre-season and in the early rounds of this campaign so unless the Cowboys go on a long winning streak its unlikely the two will both be in the finals.
Storm duo Dale Finucane and Sam Kasiano could both be playing their 150th NRL games, with Kasiano battling for a place on the bench after being suspended last game. Both made their debuts for Canterbury Bulldogs although in difference seasons.
"Dale is copying me," Kasiano joked this week.
"Dale was the same then as he is now, does everything at 100 miles an hour .
"It's a nice milestone if I get the chance to play and I didn't know I was up to 150 until the club told me – it's all the same to me. I can remember my debut and now, wow, 150.
"To do it with my mate Dale would be even better."
Cowboys forward Matt Scott has battled a knee injury but remains a chance to play after training on Thursday with coach Paul Green stating he believed Scott would play.
The Storm play the Cowboys in Townsville on Friday at 7.55pm.
Roy Ward is a Sports writer for The Age.
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