By STEVE MASCORD
COACH Des Hasler pleaded with reporters not to praise rookie Moses Mbye after the 20-year-old helped Canterbury for a scrappy victory over Melbourne.
Hasler said the Bulldogs would go into the 2014 season in a much better position to how they started last year after Mbye starred in a 20-10 win at Suncorp Stadium, where the match was used to promote the Brisbane Bombers NRL bid.
By comparison, Melbourne could be without Ryan Hinchcliffe (ankle), Justin O’Neill (leg) and Cooper Cronk (shoulder) for their March 8 clash with Manly, while there is still a little doubt over Billy Slater (knee).
“It was his first hit-out in the big grade, he’s got a big future ahead of him,” Hasler said after Noosa junior Mbye played a role in several Dogs tries.
“Don’t push him at this stage. It’s too early to write him up so I wouldn’t be doing that.
“You will – but I wouldn’t be doing it.”
Hasler insisted it was too early to say if Mbye could make the bench for the season opener against Brisbane on March 7. The coach’s assessment of how his team was placed heading into the season contrasted sharply with that of his opposite number, who lost lock Hinchcliffe to a twisted ankle in the 42nd minute.
“We’re going better than we did last year, when we had five out,” he said.
Bellamy commented: “Our attack was a little bit all over the shop. I think we’re in reasonable shape. Obviously we haven’t got everyone available but after today, at least our defence was in order.”.
Bellamy refused to comment on Cameron Smith’s ongoing deliberations on his future. “I’ve said all I am going to say on Smithy. First we’ll sort it out and see what he’s doing and I might say something then.” Bellamy then told reporters: “One more thing…” and stopped himself from continuing.
There were fears Canterbury winger Krisnan Inu had suffered a facial fracture in a head clash with Storm replacement Hymel Hunt but the initial diagnosis was merely bruising.
Melbourne signing Ben Roberts was booked for a lifting tackle with two minutes remaining. Of Hinchcliffe, Bellamy said: “They put him in a boot, they don’t think he’s too serious but I just saw it myself and it’s blown up.
“You’d like to think Billy will be OK. He could have played 20 or 30 minutes today. He trained yesterday and he got through a fair bit of work.”
Hasler said Melbourne “seemed to be on our tryline for an eternity – but they couldn’t do much with it. It would have been nice is Slater and Cronk were playing. You can only do what you can do.”
CANTERBURY 20 (J Morris 2 C Stanley M Brown tries; Stanley 2 goals) bt MELBOURNE 10 (M Fonua K Bromwich tries C Smith goal) at Suncorp Stadium. Referees: A Shortall/S Hayne. Crowd: 10,083.
Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD