Will Chambers will take on Melbourne Storm’s kicking duties if Cameron Smith doesn’t overcome an ankle injury for their NRL final against the Bulldogs.
Melbourne are backing Will Chambers to take on the crucial goal-kicking duties in Sunday’s NRL sudden-death final against Canterbury despite him booting just one goal this season.
Melbourne’s kicking ace, captain Cameron Smith, is battling to be fit in time for the elimination final at AAMI Park after badly spraining his left ankle in last week’s final round win over Brisbane.
Chambers took over the goalkicking in the second half even though the injured skipper was on the field and he managed one conversion from two attempts, which were his first of the year.
Test skipper Smith is now off crutches and out of a moon boot but won’t train with the team until Saturday, when a decision on his readiness.
The Storm are desperately hoping he’ll play, winning only 42 per cent of games played without him.
It’s the second time this season Smith has had an ankle injury. His right ankle gave way during the first State of Origin game.
He then defied Storm medical staff to back up three days later to play.
Storm football manager Frank Ponissi said this injury was worse, however he had 10 days between games to recover.
“He’ll rest and do physio and if he continues at the same rate of progress we’re hoping he’s on track to play,” said Ponissi.
If he does play, Smith may still hand over kicking to centre Chambers.
“Cameron won’t kick if there’s any danger he will aggravate the injury,” Ponissi said.
“Will put his hand up at the start of the season to be the back-up kicker after Gareth Widdop left for the Dragons.
“He’s been Cameron’s goal-kicking partner at training all season so he will take it on.”
Ryan Hinchcliffe is training in Smith’s hooking role this week and said he was ready for the challenge if needed.
“I quite enjoy playing there but I obviously get limited opportunities with the best player in the game playing there,” Hinchcliffe said.
“I played quite a bit there when I was younger and I’m confident in my ability there.”
The Storm head into the match buoyed by their recent form while the Bulldogs faltered in the run home, winning only two of their last eight matches.
But Hinchcliffe said they wouldn’t under-estimate Canterbury, who caused them trouble this season.
“They’ve beaten us the last two times we’ve played them,” he said.
“They gave us a touch-up in Perth and they beat us here 6-4 in a really tight, tough match.
“They play really well against us and I’m sure they’re coming down here full of confidence.”