2020 NRL Grand Final - Panthers v Storm
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 25: Ryan Papenhuyzen of the Storm celebrates scoring a try during the 2020 NRL Grand Final match between the Penrith Panthers and the Melbourne Storm at ANZ Stadium on October 25, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Rugby league great Cameron Smith believes his former coach and current Melbourne Storm head coach Craig Bellamy has one of the toughest decisions to make leading up to the NRL finals series.

With the Storm losing their 19-game win streak last week against a re-vamped Eels side, fingers are being pointed at Ryan Papenhuyzen's return as a contributing factor. With Nicho Hynes filling in for Papenhuyzen the majority of the season, many believe the youngster has earned the right to don the number one jersey.

While the former Storm captain agrees with the fact that Nicho Hynes has been in form, he has no doubt that Papenhuyzen is the man for the role.

Melbourne Storm Training Session
GEELONG, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 22: Ryan Papenhuyzen of the Storm speaks to teammates during a Melbourne Storm NRL training session at Geelong Grammar School on January 22, 2021 in Geelong, Australia. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

“My personal opinion is that Papenhuyzen stays,” Smith said on SEN 1170.

“I think he stays at fullback, there’s been a little bit of conversation around the Storm not being at their best since his return.

“I understand that, he was out for nine weeks, that’s a long, long time particularly with the position he plays.

“There’s been a bit of an adjustment since he’s come back, but I think once they settle on their bench, it’ll be much better.”

Another conundrum the Storm are facing is with the battle between Brandon Smith and Harry Grant at hooker.

Despite Harry Grant being Queensland's preferred pick Cameron Smith insists on selecting the Waiheke Island product,

“On Brandon Smith, he needs to start, with someone coming off the bench,” Smith said.

TOWNSVILLE, AUSTRALIA - JULY 23: Brandon Smith of the Storm warms up before the start of the round 19 NRL match between the North Queensland Cowboys and the Melbourne Storm at QCB Stadium, on July 23, 2021, in Townsville, Australia. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

“The question Craig needs to ask is, does he take Harry Grant and Nicho Hynes on the bench? That’s an answer he needs to come up with.

“Does he get Harry to come off the bench and take the second dummy-half role? Or does he get Brandon to try and play 80, and get Nicho Hynes to play as a utility.

“Hynes was in the 17 last year for the Grand Final against Penrith and didn’t see a minute of football.

“The circumstances being that the Storm got out to a good lead, Penrith came back with a flurry so there wasn’t an opportunity to get him on field.

“Craig and Melbourne would be looking at now, what’s the best make up for this team for it to perform at its optimum?

“Is it carrying those four players in the 17? Or is it one of those players missing out?

“For mine, it’s Papenhuyzen at one, Smith at nine, from there Craig needs to make up his mind on the bench.”

The Storm play the Sharks on Friday night in their final regular season clash. A win secures the minor premiership, although losing the clash will mean they need to the Panthers to lose to the Eels in the later game to maintain top spot.

Craig Bellamy has rested plenty of players, including Cameron Munster, ahead of the match though.

The Storm are likely to play the Manly Sea Eagles in a qualifying final during the first week of the finals, although could still yet face either the Parramatta Eels or Sydney Roosters, who are in with a chance at finishing in the top four if Des Hasler's side slip up against the North Queensland Cowboys on Saturday.

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