Unsung hero could be the difference

Storm coach Craig Bellamy has explained why unsung halfback Jahrome Hughes is the unique “value” man in his side as he insists the race for the premiership remains wide open

The 2020 Premiership winner now has 21 try assists and 18 line breaks this year, the only half or five-eighth in the NRL in the top 10 for both statistical marks according to Fox Sports Lab.

Hughes is both creator and destroyer, and was the match winner in the torrid 28-18 win over Manly.

The 26-year-old came into the clash on the back of suffering a calf injury against Penrith. When the game was on the line with the Storm holding a two-point lead in the 71st minute, he sliced through the Manly defence out of nowhere and put in a kick for Cameron Munster to score and secure victory.

“He probably had one of his quieter games this year but he ended up coming with the game breaker,” Bellamy said of Hughes

“I think that sums his value up to us. A lot of times his value is in how much he does, but sometimes it is just in a couple of things he does.”

Hughes has taken his game to new heights in 2021: Image: NRL PhotosSource:Supplied

The clash with hated rival Manly had a finals feel and Bellamy won’t be surprised if the two sides meet again in the grand final.

“Could be,” he said.

“I know a lot of people are saying it is a two or three-horse race but for me there are five or six teams that could win the competition. When September comes, what’s happened in the six months before can be thrown out the window. There are going to be a few more twists and turns and some luck involved at some stage, but there are still a fair few teams that could win it.”

The Panthers, Rabbitohs and Roosters appear the other major challengers to the Storm’s quest for back-to-back titles.

Either way, the Storm are the kings of Queensland. They have now won 17 matches in a row this year and an incredible 28 games on the trot at all venues north of the Tweed River since 2017, but Bellamy has bigger fish to fry yet.

“I’m probably not the sort of guy that thinks about (records) too long. Next week is a five-day turnaround and that is on my mind at the moment,” he said.

“It has been one hell of an effort for this group to win 17 in a row in one competition. It is pretty remarkable … but we need to get back into our preparation this week for Canberra because we know that is going to be a tough game (on Thursday night).

“I am really proud of this group. We had a few blokes missing in Nelson (Asofa-Solomona), Tui (Kamikamica), Felise (Kaufusi) and George Jennings. It has been a group contribution from everyone and you just can’t go to the same seventeen each week.

“We have been missing players at times but other guys have come in and done the job … but the proof of the pudding will be in September and that is when we have to get it right. That is when we are hoping to have everyone available.”

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