Will Chambers

In an ideal world Melbourne would take a full strength team to the Nines and the Big Three of Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater would set the field ablaze as Melbourne mounted a serious a challenge for the trophy. Although in reality, the big three have had a long, action packed 2013. Beginning with success in the World Club Challenge and ending with World Cup triumph they’ll now take a much-deserved rest.

  1. Justin O’Neill
  2. Travis Robinson
  3. Hymel Hunt
  4. Tohu Harris
  5. Will Chambers
  6. Ben Hampton
  7. Cody Walker
  8. Kenneath Bromwich
  9. Slade Griffin
  10. Mahe Fonua
  11. Dayne Weston
  12. Kurt Mann
  13. Felise Kaufusi
  14. Richard Kennar

On top of that, Slater and Cronk both have injury clouds hanging over their heads. Other notable omissions include Ryan Hinchliffe and Ryan Hoffman, both of whom could have an impact if selected but with coach Craig Bellamy already having spoken of his disapproval of the nines don’t expect to be seeing too many of Melbourne’s stars on show. Stating, “Personally the amount of money involved doesn’t concern me” quotes such as these doesn’t offer any extra hope for those hoping to see Melbourne field a full strength side. That’s not to say there won’t be any reason to watch Melbourne throughout the tournament.

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With Gareth Widdop departing the club, the battle is on for a spot in the halves alongside Cooper Cronk. The main two contenders – Cody Walker and Ben Hampton will get a chance to present their case in the Nines. The extra space on offer will give them a chance to showcase their talents and the one on one tackling required will give them a chance to show they can defend in the NRL. While Craig Bellamy may treat the NRL trials with more respect a stand out performance in the nines could propel either Walker or Hampton into a starting NRL spot. The speed and power of Justin O’Neill and Will Chambers gives Melbourne a chance to claim a few scalps and both will be looking to start 2014 on the right foot as they push for Origin selection. Tohu Harris’s deceptive agility and offload will be dangerous out wide. Mobile back rowers will dominate the nines and you can add Tohu Harris to the list of those who’ll dominate their opponents. He’ll also have a point to prove after the World Cup selection debacle involving Sonny Bill Williams.

New recruits such as Robinson, Hunt and Kaufusi will get an early run out with their new teammates and Robinson could be a danger man in this tournament on pace alone. Aside from questions marks on Hunt, Walker and Hampton this team is very strong defensively. If they hit a decent lead, they might still be able to do things the Melbourne way and attempt to grind out the game. They should be relatively competent in attack but will lack the firepower of the top sides, as is to be expect when you’re missing your best three players. While Bellamy appears to see it as a nuisance, it will be good for Melbourne to see their new recruits in action and the challenge of Walker and Hampton combining well while trying to stake a claim for their spot will be interesting to watch. It’s unlikely that the Storm will field a team with enough all round quality to make a real run for the Title but stranger things have happened.

Predicted Finish: 9th – 16th (Won’t make it out of the group stage)

Read more NRL Nines Team Predictions @ Undisputed Sports