Details of a nasty knee infection for Melbourne's Cameron Munster have come to light in the wake of drama surrounding the resting of players for the final round of the NRL season. Munster is among a raft of players being rested for the final round of the NRL, with his side's spot in the finals already assured.
The Storm have left out 11 regular starters for Thursday night's blockbuster clash against ladder-leaders Brisbane, who are also resting several big-name stars, with a place in the top-two guaranteed. The issue of finals-bound teams resting their players has caused uproar this week, with many fans arguing they feel 'robbed' for forking out on tickets to games that will now resemble more of a reserve grade contest.
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Munster is just one of a raft of stars missing from the final round of matches, but Storm football boss Frank Ponissi has now revealed the five-eighth has been playing through a knee infection since the State of Origin series. With the Storm assured of a third or fourth-placed finish and unable to finish the regular season in the top-two to secure a home final, Thursday night's match looms as an ideal time for Melbourne to give their influential playmaker a well deserved rest.
"We didn't bring Cameron Munster up (to Brisbane) because he has been carrying an infected knee since Origin," Ponissi told SEN radio this week. "We've given him the option to stay back, do his own training and not play this week.
"He will be in a better state to play next week for the first week of the finals than if we had brought him up and played him." Munster's spot at No.6 will be filled by Jayden Nikorima, who's set to feature in just his 10th NRL appearance. Nikorima will partner Tyran Wishart in the halves, with regular No.7 Jahrome Hughes out with an injury he picked up against the Titans.
Calls for bye round as teams rest stars before NRL finals
The Munster development comes after a week of intense debate about resting players and whether the NRL should follow the AFL's lead by adopting a bye round before the finals start. Storm coach Craig Bellamy is among those to endorse the bye round idea and said he wouldn't have had to rest players for their round 27 clash against Brisbane, if they were given one week off to prepare for the finals.
“I think it would be a good idea,” Bellamy said on Wednesday. “Tomorrow, in our team, there would be more players playing. We’ve got some injured guys but there would be more players who have played first grade (that) would (play). The Broncos would be saying the same.
“Perhaps we should look at some other way of not letting that happen, and having that week off before the finals would be a way to have more players playing in the last round.” NRL CEO Andrew Abdo has stopped short of endorsing a bye round before the finals and said he had no issues with clubs resting players, arguing that it was "exciting' for fans to see emerging talent at clubs.
Roosters and Rabbitohs great Bryan Fletcher said it was 'inevitable' the NRL will adopt a bye-round before the finals - much like the AFL. “It’s inevitable that the NRL will follow the AFL in the sense that we’ve got the concussion rule, we’ve got the stand-down protocol that’s 11 days, so I think it will come in, you’ll get a week off before the semi-finals," Fletcher said on 'The Back Page'.
Manly great Mark Carroll is one person who doesn't want to see the final-round bye, saying: “I’m over the byes, the year is long enough. They’ve had three byes this year, it’s unheard of. I don’t think we’ve ever had that. As a player, you don’t want to be resting. It’s all about momentum. You want to be coming into the semi-finals with momentum but also consistency.”
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