Bellamy’s surprise Munster update, Eels get glimpse of Moses-Lomax combo, Manly must defy Origin history by StuffsEarth

Estimated read time 24 min read

Star Melbourne playmaker Cameron Munster is back running and is ahead of schedule in his recovery from a serious groin injury.

Munster was expected to be sidelined for another six weeks after suffering a tear in an adductor tendon at Magic Round four weeks ago.

With the injury ruling the Queensland ace out of the entire State of Origin series, the prognosis was that he didn’t require surgery and was expected to return in time for the NRL finals.

In a welcome sight on Thursday for Storm fans, Munster completed run-throughs away from the main group ahead of Melbourne’s round-16 clash with the Dolphins in Brisbane on Friday night.

He wasn’t at top pace but looked comfortable in his repeat efforts.

Coach Craig Bellamy confirmed his first-choice five-eighth was tracking well to return to the side.

While offering no definite return date, Munster could take on the Sydney Roosters in round 20 at AAMI Park, although Bellamy stressed he wouldn’t be rushed given he’d carried a groin injury for the past year.

“He is going along pretty well to what the early diagnosis was in the first place,” Bellamy said of the 29-year-old.

“He’s probably a little bit ahead of that, but we’re not going to push him because he’s only played four or five games this year, so we’re not going to put him back in until he’s ready.

“I think he’s progressing pretty well, so hopefully it’ll be a bit sooner rather than later that he’ll be available for selection.”

Munster’s position has been ably covered by Tyran Wishart, whose combination in the halves with Jahrome Hughes has continued to flourish.

Sitting on top of the table, Melbourne face a Dolphins outfit looking to claim another top-four scalp after they shocked Cronulla at home last round.

Eels get first look at key duo

Zac Lomax can’t help but chuckle at the serendipity of linking up with soon-to-be Parramatta teammate Mitch Moses during NSW’s State of Origin tilt.

Lomax’s request for a release from his junior club St George Illawarra was one of the big talking points to begin the NRL season, coming amid career-best form on his move to the wing.

In the weeks after signing with the Eels for 2025, Lomax earned his first NSW cap, having long been touted as a player with Origin potential.

After shining on debut in NSW’s game-one loss, Lomax has been given a golden chance to test his chemistry with Parramatta’s most important player Moses, who was called in to replace Nicho Hynes for Origin II.

The Parramatta faithful and club powerbrokers will watch on for an early preview of a right-edge combination with the potential to add spark to an Eels side currently languishing in 15th place.

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“I guess it’s a little bit ironic isn’t it?” a smiling Lomax said to AAP.

It will be music to the Eels’ ears that Moses and Lomax are getting on famously in camp, having never played together before.

“Mitchy’s obviously a great fella,” Lomax said. “I love chatting to him, he’s just a good dude. 

“He’s a guy you want to be around. He’s a competitor too, he wears his heart on his sleeve on the field.

“His kicking game’s unbelievable, he’s probably got the best kicking game in the comp. We (NSW) will obviously lean on that a lot.”

Ben Hunt’s kicks for the tall and athletic Lomax have been a regular source of points for the resurgent Dragons this season.

Blues captain Jake Trbojevic said Moses and Lomax would be keen to forge a similar combination ahead of the clash at the MCG, where NSW will fight to keep the series alive on June 26.

“(Moses) obviously brings a great kicking game, lots of experience, so that’s really good,” the prop said.

“Zac had a great game in the first game, I love the way he just competes on everything. 

“With Mitch, one of his strengths is his kicking game and Zac’s is in the air so that’s obviously something they’ll keep working on.”

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(Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Manly face up to woeful Origin record

With a rag-tag bunch of fringe NRL players and rookies, Manly have their sights set on ending a horrific State of Origin-impacted record and further enhancing their top-eight credentials.

All season long, Sea Eagles coach Anthony Seibold has challenged his players to break away from a “cluster” of teams lingering in and around the top eight.

There has been arguably no bigger test of his side’s ability to do that than the one coming on Saturday, when Manly face South Sydney missing a dozen first-grade regulars.

While injury and suspension mean Tom Trbojevic, Josh Aloiai and Taniela Paseka won’t take the field at Accor Stadium, the Sea Eagles will also be without Jake Trbojevic, Daly Cherry-Evans and Haumole Olakau’atu due to Origin duties.

Eighth-placed Manly boast one of the worst records in Origin-affected rounds.

Since 2016, the Sea Eagles have won just one of eight games when players have been away on representative duty for their state, with fill-in co-captain Luke Brooks keen to reverse that ugly trend.

“It’s a big game, because there’s so many teams from about fifth to 13th and there’s only a point or two between them,” Brooks told AAP.

“Every game is so important and, going into a bye, to get that win and bank the two points would be nice.

“It’s a massive game and a big opportunity for us.”

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MAY 24: Daly Cherry-Evans of the Sea Eagles kicks during the round 12 NRL match between Manly Sea Eagles and Melbourne Storm at 4 Pines Park on May 24, 2024, in Sydney, Australia.
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(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Manly will hand out three club debuts, with Aaron Schoupp named at centre and forwards Aitasi James and Caleb Navale on the interchange.

“(Navale) has been playing some good footy in reserve grade and he’ll add a lot to our side,” Brooks said.

To defeat Souths, Manly are eager to summon the same grit and determination that helped them conjure a 30-14 win over St George Illawarra last Sunday with just 14 fit players.

“That was a really gutsy effort from the boys, and towards the end we had 13 blokes and Corey Waddell, who was running on one leg,” centre Tolu Koula said.

“We showed real heart to get that win.

“We’ve got a pretty young squad with a few fresh faces, but we’re confident that we have the ability to go out there and get the job done.”

with AAP

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