By STEVE MASCORD
STRICKEN five-eighth Gareth Widdop has told England coach Steve McNamara he is a genuine hope of playing in the World Cup – and finishing the NRL season with Melbourne Storm.
Brett Finch has again been named as Widdop’s replacement in the side to play traditional rivals Brisbane this Friday at AAMI Park, after the Englishman suffered a rare and agonising dislocated hip nine days ago in Monday Night Football.
Storm coach Craig Bellamy yesterday described last Saturday’s 22-4 loss to Wests Tigers as their worst performance of the season and as being full of “very poor signs”.
Last year the Storm lost five matches in a row during the State Of Origin series; they’ve now dropped two on the trot.
But while Widdop is widely expected to miss the rest of the campaign before joining St George Illawarra next year, McNamara tells Fairfax Media: “He’s a chance and he’s a in a real positive frame of mind.”
Asked if Widdop would play without any club games between now and the tournament kick-off, McNamara said: “We’d have to really look at that. That would be difficult but never say never.
“He thinks he’s a chance of being back to play some games before the end of the year and if that happens, he’s a great chance.”
Captain Cameron Smith is back from an eye injury while seven players have been bracketed on the bench against the Broncos. A calf strain has kept Brisbane representative forward out of their side.
Hannant aggravated the injury before the Sunday’s 18-16 loss to the Warriors, a game Bellamy described as the best he has seen this year.
The Broncos are in camp in New Zealand. Coach Anthony Griffin has retained the line-up that played at Mt Smart and added Jarrod Wallace as 18th man.
Teams for the match, which kicks off at AAMI Park at 7.40pm on Friday, are:
MELBOURNE: Billy Slater; Sisa Waqa, Will Chambers, Maurice Blair, Justin O’Neill; Brett Finch, Cooper Cronk; Ryan Hinchcliffe, Kevin Proctor, Ryan Hoffman, Bryan Norrie, Cameron Smith (c), Jesse Bromwich. Res: Jordon McLean, Tohu Harris, Siosaia Vave, Slade Griffin, Junior Moors, Tim Glasby, Ben Hampton (three to be omitted).
BRISBANE: Corey Norman; Josh Hoffman, Justin Hodges, Jack Reed, Lachlan Maranta; Scott Prince, Peter Wallace; Corey Parker, Matt Gillett, Alex Glen, Josh McGuire, Andrew McCullough, Sam Thaiday. Res: Ben Hunt, Dave Hala, Mitchell Dodds, Dunamis Lui.
Filed for: THE AGE