Winger Steve Turner is confident Melbourne have the depth to win if captain Cameron Smith is suspended from Friday night’s NRL preliminary final against Cronulla.
Turner insists there was no malice or intent in Smith’s tackle on Brisbane forward Sam Thaiday though the Test hooker was on Monday charged over it following the NRL match video review and is facing a two match ban that would end his season.
In a worst-case scenario, Melbourne could be without three international forwards against the Sharks at the SFS on Friday night, with Jeremy Smith also charged for his role in the Thaiday tackle.
Backrower Ryan Hoffman is in grave doubt with the recurring ankle injury that forced him off the field in the opening half of the 16-14 victory over the Broncos on Saturday night.
The Storm are almost certain to contest Cameron Smith’s grade one charge of making unnecessary contact with the head or neck at the judiciary on Wednesday night.
“I think we can (win without Cameron Smith),” Turner said after training on Monday.
“We can’t worry about whether Cam plays or he doesn’t play, that sort of stuff is out of our control.
“The 17 who do play will be worried about the football side of things.”
If the Storm are forced to make three chances, Russ Aitken, Aiden Tolman and Scott Anderson are the players likely to come into the lineup, with veteran utility Matt Geyer set to move to hooker.
“In the last couple of years during the Origin period and with injuries we’ve had young blokes step up and do a wonderful job for the Storm,” said Turner.
“That’s the sort of culture we’ve brought into the Storm over the last couple of years.”
Turner has battled a knee injury for much of the season, but is in no doubt for the remainder of the finals series after having clean-up surgery a few weeks ago.
He said although the Storm were often the focus of grapple tackle allegations by opposing teams, it was not a deliberate tactic employed by the club.
“On the odd occasion arms do slip up, but that’s just the game we play,” he said.
“It’s a tough sport and I’m not out there to say I’m being grappled at all.
“These things do happen and I have no doubt that players aren’t out there to do that sort of stuff.
“I know we don’t condone the grapple tackle at all.”
After slipping behind 12-0 against the Broncos on Saturday night before winning 16-14 with a dramatic last-minute try by Greg Inglis, Turner said the Storm were fully aware they couldn’t afford another tardy start against Cronulla.
“The Sharks have had a wonderful year this year,” he said.
“They lost games last year by one or two points and they’ve converted those games into wins this year.
“It’s no surprise they’re playing in a preliminary final.’