Slater still no certainty for NRL return

John Salvado
Billy Slater has been ruled out of Melbourne's clash with Newcastle but cleared for State of Origin

Melbourne star Billy Slater remains no certainty to return from a hamstring injury for Sunday's NRL clash with Newcastle in what would be his last chance to force his way back into the Queensland side for State of Origin II.

Slater, 34, was a late withdrawal for Origin I, won 22-12 by NSW on June 6, and also sat out Melbourne's win over Brisbane four days later.

He looked to be running freely on Thursday at Storm training.

Sunday's game in Newcastle has been billed as a fullback showdown between Slater and 20-year-old Knights sensation Kalyn Ponga, who is yet to make his Origin debut for the Maroons.

"I know there has been some talk about those two playing for the Origin spot," Storm coach Craig Bellamy told reporters on Thursday.

"I'm not quite sure if that would be the case - you'd have to ask (Queensland coach Kevin Walters) about that.

"But that won't come into our consideration at all and I don't think it's going to come into Billy's consideration either."

Bellamy rated Slater a "50-50" prospect to play against the Knights.

"On our medical team's basis, he's been very close. Obviously he was very close to Origin - he was very close for us last week," said Bellamy.

"He just hasn't been comfortable before those last couple of games for him to think he's been 100 per cent and the medical staff have obviously been on the conservative side, which you need to be."

Walters will name his team on Monday for the second Origin match.

Bellamy is inching closer to deciding whether to accept a new $5 million contract with the Storm or move to Brisbane to replace Wayne Bennett at the Broncos from 2019 onwards.

"As I keep saying, we're getting closer but how close that is I'm not quite sure yet," he said.

"There's a few things to be thought about yet, a few things to be checked out.

"At the end of the day, as I said, I wasn't going to rush a decision to please anyone.

"Both clubs have been very patient which I really appreciate but they are probably going to just have to be a little bit more patient for a bit longer."

The fifth-placed Storm will welcome back centres Will Chambers and Curtis Scott from suspension for the away match against the 11th-ranked Knights.

Bellamy said utility back Young Tonumaipea was particularly unlucky to lose his first-grade berth to accommodate the duo's return, having done a good job over the past two months playing in the centres and on the wing.

Tonumaipea will leave the club in early July to undertake a two-year Mormon mission in Berlin.