AS they prepare for a season-defining game, the Melbourne Storm have been hit by their first round of budget cuts by their new owners, with some senior management positions evaporating.
New Storm chief executive Mark Evans told Fairfax Media “a few” of senior management figures had been told there would be no job for them in 2014 but did not want to go into any detail.
During their run of five grand final appearances over the past seven years, Melbourne has had one of the largest football-related staffs in the NRL. It would appear that is about to change.
While there will be no appreciable staffing cut, highly paid staff are being replaced by those on more modest wages.
“The total head count of employees won’t change much – it might be one down,” Evans told Fairfax Media.
“There are some minor changes at the top level and some additions below that. The senior team has been made a bit smaller.
“There’s been a restructure with the forming of five directorates which report to me. There’ll be some natural wastage and one or two people departing but that’s all.”
Evans said senior employees had been asked to apply for positions within the new structure. He did not want to name those who had missed out.
The clubs’ coffers should be significantly boosted on Friday night with a 20,000-plus crowd against an injury hit South Sydney, who appear to have hit a few hurdles after spending much of the season as premiership front runners.
Australia star Greg Inglis was not named by South Sydney on Thursday and would-be opposite number Billy Slater does not expect him to be a late inclusion.
“He ruled that out last night (on television),” Slater said at a South Bank promotion. “He’s pretty honest.”
Luke Keary was named at five-eighth in place of John Sutton (ankle) for the Rabbitohs, with Queensland back rower Chris McQueen holding his place in the starting side despite poor stats in Saturday night’s loss to North Queensland.
The big shock in the Storm side was centre Maurice Blair being named despite him being almost folded in two during Sunday’s 68-4 win over Canberra, and spending the night in hospital wearing a neck brace.
“It’s probably one of the worst tackles I’ve ever seen but seeing Bobby late (Monday) night after he left Canberra, it’s amazing,” Storm head trainer Tony Ayoub said,
“He’s very stiff, after being flexed into a position you’re not used to but … he’s been cleared of all structural damage and at the moment it’s looking very positive for him.
“He’s a chance … it’s just a case of whether he comes up. His neck is the least of our worries, it’s his thoracic spine, the middle of his back.
“If we can settle him down in the next couple of days, I’ll give him every chance – absolutely.
Teams for the match, which kicks off at AAMI Park at 7.40pm, are:
MELBOURNE: Billy Slater; Sisa Waqa, Will Chambers, Maurice Blair, Mahe Fonua; Brett Finch, Cooper Cronk; Ryan Hinchcliffe, Ryan Hoffman, Kevin Proctor, Bryan Norrie, Cameron Smith, Jesse Bromwich. Res: Jason Ryles, Tohu Harris, Jordan McClean, Kenny Bromwich, Slade Griffin (one to be omitted).
SOUTHS: Nathan Merritt; Dylan Farrell, Bryson Goodwin, Dylan Walker, Matt King; Luke Keary, Adam Reynolds; Ben Lowe, Ben Teo, Chris McQueen, George Burgess, Issac Luke, Sam Burgess. Res: Ben Lowe, Nathan Peats, Roy Asotasi, Tom Burgess.
Referees: Ben Cummins/Matt Cecchin.
Filed for: THE AGE