Coates set for timely Storm NRL return

·3-min read

State of Origin winger Xavier Coates is set to bring some much-needed star power as Melbourne aim to bank consecutive NRL wins for the first time in almost two months.

Looking to hang on to their spot in the top four, Melbourne host last-placed Gold Coast at AAMI Park on Friday night after breaking a four-game losing streak last round.

The Storm also hope to celebrate a victory for Jesse and Kenny Bromwich, who will become the first brothers to clock up 500 games at an NRL club.

But they will again have a new-look backline with game-breaking centre Justin Olam out with COVID-19 while fullback Nick Meaney will miss the match through concussion.

Grant Anderson and Tyran Wishart were originally named as their replacements but 24 hours out from kick-off, coach Craig Bellamy switched Anderson out for Young Tonumeipea, who will play his first NRL game since 2020.

Tonumeipea left the Storm in 2018 to embark on a religious mission but returned on a train-and-trial deal in June following stints with Gold Coast and Super Rugby's Melbourne Rebels.

The Storm flanks have been strengthened by the likely return of Coates, who suffered a serious ankle injury playing for Queensland in Origin I in early June.

They also have Wests Tigers winger David Nofoaluma, who has joined Melbourne on loan for the remainder of the season.

Coach Craig Bellamy was coy on the return of Coates despite him suiting up for the Storm's captain's run and moving freely.

"He didn't finish the session on Tuesday so we will see how he pulls up," Bellamy said.

"He hasn't played for about eight or nine weeks so the more games we can get into him the better, but we're not going to take any risks."

Storm football manager Frank Ponissi later said in a radio interview Coates was expected to play.

Bellamy said he liked what Nofoaluma had shown since his arrival, only completing his first session on Monday.

The 28-year-old is a former Dally M winger of the year and was the Tigers' highest tryscorer in 2021, although he hasn't played an NRL match this season since round 12.

"We don't expect miracles of him but he's fitted in really well this week," Bellamy said.

"He's a really confident guy and he hasn't stood back and has stepped into team training and done a really good job.

"We want him to play to his strengths and, obviously, he runs the ball really well out of our end."

The Storm have won seven straight against the Titans, who haven't won in Melbourne since 2014.

The Titans have rested youngster Toby Sexton with Tanah Boyd and AJ Brimson the starting halves.

Titans coach Justin Holbrook has rewarded Jayden Campbell with a start after the fullback scored two tries off the bench against Canberra last week.

Campbell shone on his debut against Melbourne last year when the Storm were narrow victors in their Sunshine Coast clash.

"It's just a good chance to give Tanah an opportunity to play there and get Jayden Campbell in the starting side," Holbrook said.

"It's not punishing Toby or anything like that, it's just picking our best side to go and play Melbourne in Melbourne."

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