Local to debut at Storm

MELBOURNE Storm could be on the verge of unveiling its first bona fide Victorian talent, with coach Craig Bellamy eyeing off its final regular season home game against Cronulla for Mahe Fonua’s debut.
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Bellamy yesterday said Fonua, and another local product, Young Tonumaipea, were closing in on their first NRL games and he hoped the round 25 clash at AAMI Park on August 27 could present the chance for one of them.

Fonua is believed to have the front running after impressing in the NSW Cup. He spent a large portion of yesterday’s training session on the left wing with Anthony Quinn, who Bellamy said had a stomach complaint, running in the reserves. Tonumaipea also spent time training in the first-grade squad.

”I don’t want to pick out a game, but I’d like to think, hopefully, next home game we might give Mahe or Young a run,” Bellamy said.

Storm has never had a born-and-bred Victorian talent reach the NRL ranks. Former players Jeremy Smith and Jake Webster spent part of their childhoods in Melbourne, but had most of their grounding in the game’s heartland areas.

Melbourne plays Gold Coast on Friday night at AAMI Park and Bellamy said he gave the young talent extended time in the first-grade squad yesterday so that they would feel comfortable when the time came for a call-up.

”We do that every now and then,” Bellamy said. ”Earlier in the season, Kenny Bromwich had two or three full sessions with us. When we decide to put them in, if they’ve only had one week’s training sometimes it’s not enough, but he’s getting close. It’s going to be a good thing for Victoria when a local bloke does it.”

Meanwhile, Bellamy yesterday added his voice to the chorus of concern about refereeing in the NRL, saying the consistency of decisions must improve.

Match officials have come under fire on several fronts, including the interpretation of the obstruction rule. Canterbury is fighting a $10,000 fine handed to Bulldogs coach Des Hasler for comments he made about referees Brett Suttor and Jason Robinson after last Saturday’s game against Newcastle.

When asked about the issue today, Bellamy said ”every coach has got a whinge” but refereeing consistency was one of his biggest complaints.

”We’ve had our issues with referees as well, and they’ve probably had their issues with us,” Bellamy said. ”There certainly has been some things the last couple of weeks, but I think what we’re all after as coaches and clubs is some consistency.

”To me that’s the main thing.”

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