Hughes joins race for Storm halfback role

Daniel Gilhooly

Jahrome Hughes has joined the queue of candidates for the Melbourne Storm halfback jersey but Craig Bellamy won't commit to a permanent wearer.

Hughes produced some neat touches in Melbourne's 12-6 NRL win over the Warriors in Auckland on Sunday, making a fluent transition from his fullback role of recent weeks.

Kiwi-born Hughes' sharp displays when filling in for fullback Billy Slater during the State of Origin window was behind coach Bellamy's late decision to change his starting lineup at Mt Smart Stadium.

Hughes replaced Brodie Croft at halfback.

"I thought Jahrome was good. He's played a fair few games at fullback and he's been one of our best players," Bellamy said.

"That doesn't take anything away from Brodie Croft, who's an excellent player.

"We just thought that he (Hughes) deserves to be in the team. We think he's got a real good footy mind."

Whether loyalty keeps 23-year-old Hughes at halfback for the new competition leaders over the closing six weeks and the play-offs remains to be seen.

Replacing Cooper Cronk has been a fascinating process, with Bellamy giving nine starts to Ryley Jacks before shifting him to five-eighth this month.

Jacks was omitted for the Warriors clash following Cameron Munster's return.

Croft has had seven starts, all at halfback, while Hughes has been there twice, along with five run-ons at fullback.

Both try assists were delivered by Hughes at Mt Smart Stadium, to Will Chambers and Suliasi Vunivalu.

However, Melbourne's overall attack largely failed to click, something Bellamy is eager to potentially resolve with consistent selection at No.7.

"We've had three halfbacks this year so sometimes that makes it hard on the combinations," Bellamy said.

"But we've certainly got the players there to start playing with a bit more consistency with our attack ... we just need to get a bit of finesse when we've got the footy."

Bellamy says his team's superior game management in the closing stages was the difference on Sunday, singling out the contributions of Munster, Cameron Smith and Billy Slater.

He didn't mention Hughes, suggesting further debate at the selection table before they face Canberra in Melbourne on Saturday.