THE Melbourne Storm remain the $7.50 favourites for the NRL title at Sportsbet.com.au despite news emerging that superstar fullback Billy Slater will miss at least the first fortnight of the regular season.
The Storm has nursed Slater through the pre-season after a shoulder reconstruction, but the club is not prepared to fast-track his return to competitive football, given the likelihood of an injury re-occurrence.
Melbourne Storm coach Craig Bellamy said the club is not willing to risk one of the league’s most damaging players.
“We’re really happy with the way it’s progressing, but I’m pretty sure he won’t be playing the first couple of rounds,” Bellamy said of his returning fullback.
“We’ve waited a long time so we’re not going to take any risks with him physically or mentally.”
The news that Slater’s return to league football will be delayed has made little impact in the individual betting markets, the 33-year-old remains steady at the $34 quote via Sportsbet.com.au to win the 2017 Dally M Medal.
The Storm were short-priced favourites to beat the Canterbury Bulldogs in their season opener next Friday night, but have since drifted slightly in the betting market.
The Melbourne Storm are paying $1.70 at Sportsbet.com.au to start their season off in winning fashion.
Slater confirmed he had been doing full contact at training for some weeks but knows he has to step it up.
“It’s been a long time since I have made contact on a footy field,” he said.
“Getting in to that has certainty not just built my confidence but built my strength in the shoulder.”
Joining Slater on the sidelines is State Of Origin back-rower Tohu Harris.
The important representative player will miss at least the next two months of football after suffering a stress fracture in his foot.
Bellamy said Harris’ injury only became apparent late in the piece.
“We thought we got through the trials unscathed, but (Harris) has had a sore foot for a little bit, which we thought was part of his ankle injury but it wasn’t.”
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