It will take a minimum of three Melbourne Storm players to fully cover for the absence of the man currently rated the world's best when they meet Leeds in the World Club Challenge. The Storm captain, Cameron Smith, holder of the Golden Boot as the world's outstanding player, has stayed behind in Australia for the birth of his second child, leaving his coach Craig Bellamy, with a three-cornered problem.
Bellamy announced in Leeds yesterday that Dallas Johnston, the forward who made his first Australian Test appearance last season, will lead the side in their warm-up at Halifax on Friday night and, in all probability, in the main event at Elland Road a week later. "I've only captained them a couple of times before, but it's always good to lead the blokes out," said Johnston.
Smith's position as hooker will go to Melbourne's forward Jack-of-all-trades, Matt Geyer, the only survivor of the Storm's squad that beat St Helens in the World Club Challenge in 2000.
Geyer, normally used in the past as a standoff or winger, started at hooker for the first time in a trial match against Manly last weekend. "That's the way I'll finish my career now," said the 32-year-old Geyer, who plans to retire at the end of the season.
He will not, on this trip, be given the extra responsibility of kicking the goals. Smith's job in that department will go instead to his namesake, the New Zealand forward, Jeremy Smith, or to the winger Steve Turner.
Bellamy plans to give all 21 of his squad part of a game at Halifax on Friday night. "I have 14 or 15 players I know will be there against Leeds," he said. "But there are a couple of spots up for grabs."
One disruption for Melbourne is that half their kit went missing on the connecting flight between Leeds and Manchester. "Players have been going out buying undies and socks," Bellamy said. Ticket sales for the game at Elland Road are already nearing the 30,000 mark.Reuse content