Billy Slater plea rejected as Craig Bellamy names Melbourne Storm side for NRL opener

The NRL legend wants to see boom rookie Sua Fa'alogo somewhere in the Storm 17.

Calls from Melbourne Storm legend Billy Slater for Craig Bellamy to find a spot in the side for boom rookie Sua Fa'alogo have fallen on deaf ears after he missed out on selection in round one. The 20-year-old starred in his NRL debut against the Brisbane Broncos in the final round of last season, scoring two tries.

He then made his Test debut for Samoa against Australia and did not look out of place, racking up 63 metres from 14 carries, producing 11 tackle busts, an offload and a linebreak. Despite Australia running out comfortable 38-12 victors in the Pacific Championships opener, Fa'alogo's debut caught the attention of fans.

Pictured Billy Slater left and Sua Fa'alogo right
Billy Slater has urged Craig Bellamy to find a place in the 17 for boom rookie Sua Fa'alogo. Image: Getty

After impressing in the off-season, Fa'alogo was moved from a development list contract to a top 30 contract, with Melbourne securing the fullback's services for another five years. However, the young Samoan wasn't named in the Storm's 17 for their round one clash against the Panthers, with Melbourne seeking a 22nd-consecutive win in the opening game of the season (a streak that dates back to 2002).

Instead, Fa'alogo has been selected as a reserve and will not feature against Penrith unless there is an injury. Tyran Wishart will act as the bench utility against the Panthers, although Fa'alogo was hampered by an injury in the pre-season and may come into contention as he works back to full fitness.

TOWNSVILLE, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 14: Sualauvi Faalogo of Samoa attempts to evade the Kangaroos defence during the Mens Pacific Championship match between Australia Kangaroos and Samoa at Queensland Country Bank Stadium on October 14, 2023 in Townsville, Australia. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)
Sua Fa'alogo starred for Samoa in his Pacific Championships debut against Australia. (Ian Hitchcock via Getty Images)

Craig Bellamy goes against Billy Slater call

The decision not to pick Fa'alogo won't impress Slater - who works with the Storm outside backs in a part-time role - as he believes the youngster needs to be playing in the NRL, drawing comparisons between him and Reece Walsh. "I'd be trying to find a spot for him somewhere because he's a wonderful player," Slater said on Wide World of Sports' 'The Billy Slater' Podcast.

"He's just re-signed with the club for another five years, so he's there for a long period of time. I know he's been working hard in the off-season, so I think it's time for Sua to enter the NRL again."

NRL greats Andrew Johns and Brad Fittler have also been vocal about Fa'alogo's ability and believe he could play a utility role at the Storm, similar to what Cooper Cronk and Ryan Papenhuyzen did at the start of their respective careers. "They (Melbourne Storm) always do that - they bring these young blokes in that play in all random positions," Fittler said on Wide World of Sports' 'Freddy and the Eighth' podcast. "(Ryan) Papenhuyzen came through, Cooper Cronk came through - whether you're a halfback or fullback, he (Bellamy) puts you in the middle for a while."

Fa'alogo came through the Storm's Victorian pathway system and has been working closely with Melbourne's spine members Cameron Munster, Jahrome Hughes and Harry Grant. After signing a new deal last week, the Samoan youngster said he was relishing the opportunity to learn from some of the NRL's best.

"It is really unbelievable for me to be playing next to guys like Munster, Paps, Harry and Hughesy," Fa'alogo said. "I am a proud Melbourne boy and proud Samoan. My family is here and I loved playing footy with Northern Thunder growing up. To have the chance to be part of the Storm is a dream come true.

"I can't thank Craig (Bellamy) and the club enough for what they have done for me over the last couple of seasons and hope I can repay them on the field when my time comes."


Melbourne Storm boss hails Sua Fa'alogo's work ethic

Melbourne Storm's football manager Frank Ponissi said the 20-year-old deserved a new deal for his hard work since joining as a development list player in 2021. "We can't have asked for any more from Sua since he joined us on a development list contract back in 2021," Ponissi said.

"Anyone who saw his NRL debut and then when he played for Samoa will know he has explosive pace with exceptional footwork. We identified Sua when he played in our Thunderbolts and SG Ball teams and has been patient playing with the Sunshine Coast Falcons last season before getting his chance to play in the NRL. He is a great character to have around the club and brings an enormous amount of energy to the group."

with AAP

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