Sport

Coach Bellamy has gripe about NRL draw for next season

IT MIGHT have been his first day back on the job preparing his team for an NRL title defence, but Storm coach Craig Bellamy wasted no time slamming the draw for 2013.

Bellamy said he may leave some of his best players at home for the round two clash against the Cowboys in Townsville, given the health risk that could result from backing up just five days later against the Bulldogs.

"We feel we've been shafted by that five-day turnaround," he said.

"I'm really concerned about our players' welfare. If it's dangerous for some of our players, they won't be playing up there.

"It's time for the Players Association to get in there and say this is about player's welfare ... at least ask the question about what the effect is on the players."

Bellamy said he agreed with Manly coach Geoff Toovey that elements of the draw, including short back-ups for some teams and not others, made the competition "a little bit uneven".

While the coach was back, after a break that included visits to rugby and soccer clubs in France and England, and also to Red Bull's motor racing facility in England, many of the club's star players have yet to return.

Kiwi internationals Jesse Bromwich and Kevin Proctor will be back next week, and Ryan Hoffman, Brett Finch and Jason Ryles the following week.

And after a torturous season that culminated in the Test match against New Zealand in Townsville in October, Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater have been told to come back after Christmas.

"It's a big year (with the World Cup) so we're trying to keep them as fresh as possible for as long as possible," Bellamy said.

Topics:  craig bellamy draw melbourne storm nrl rugby league


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