Edwards for Blues wing? Bellamy sets deadline on coaching call, Papalii’s point to prove
Incumbent NSW five-eighth Jarome Luai has declared Dylan Edwards is made for the State of Origin arena and backed the Penrith fullback for a possible call-up on the wing.
At least two of NSW’s outside back spots appear vacant heading into the series opener at Adelaide Oval on May 31, with only Brian To’o and Latrell Mitchell seemingly assured of places at wing and centre, respectively.
Daniel Tupou, the Blues’ other winger last series, will miss game one through injury and there are concerns about the club form of Joseph-Aukuso Suaalii and Tom Trbojevic – two men tipped as contenders earlier in the season.
Canterbury flyer Josh Addo-Carr was snubbed from last year’s series before starring in the Kangaroos’ victorious World Cup campaign but has missed a month of football this season with an ankle injury.
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Addo-Carr has been named to make his return for the Bulldogs this week but is no guarantee to play himself back into form or shake the injury off completely in time.
As captain, James Tedesco holds a mortgage on the fullback spot for NSW and Australia and so has kept Edwards from playing representative football thus far.
But running low on wing options, Luai has suggested his two-time premiership-winning teammate should be given a chance there.
Edwards has started on the wing only three times at NRL level but was considered by Mal Meninga as a possible wing option for the Kangaroos’ World Cup squad, before the coach settled on others.
NSW coach Brad Fittler has long been a fan of selecting in-form players out of position in the outside backs; fullbacks Mitchell and Trbojevic were the Blues’ best two players in the 2021 series when they lined up in the centres.
“If Dyl’s called upon for that (wing) role, whatever is required of him, he’s going to do it at 100 per cent,” Luai said.
“We’ve seen, the Panthers boys, what he can do every game but I think you guys (the media) seeing it now makes us really happy. He’d kill it.”
Ranked equal-fourth in the Dally M standings, Edwards is in career-best form and most recently steered the Panthers back to the winner’s circle with a strong performance against the Warriors at Magic Round.
He is also a proven big-game player, winning the Clive Churchill Medal in last year’s grand final, and excels at carries out of yardage – a core competency for the modern fullback and winger.
“You look at the Origin arena, the blood, sweat and tears, you sort of get that feel that players do stuff they don’t normally do,” Luai said.
“But for me, Dyl does that every week. It’s not out of the blue for him.
“He’s made for that arena.”
Famously averse to any kind of self-promotion, Edwards shrugged at the Origin speculation but said he would be keen to switch to the wing if it meant earning a maiden Blues jersey.
“If that was an option or that was what they needed me to do, I’d definitely put my hand up to do it,” he said.
“There’s some good outside backs there that play on the wing on a regular basis but if that was what needed to happen, I’d gladly put my hand up for it.”
Bellamy says enough is enough … to himself
Craig Bellamy is promising to make an announcement on his NRL coaching future early next week, saying he’s sick of thinking about it.
Bellamy has continued to push back the deadline for a decision on whether he will remain as Melbourne’s head coach for a 22nd season in 2024 or move into a part-time director of coaching role.
The 63-year-old signed a five-year deal in 2021 but included a clause where he could move aside when he felt the time was right.
Ahead of the Storm’s NRL clash with ladder leaders Brisbane at AAMI Park on Thursday, Bellamy said a decision was imminent.
He said that the five-day turnaround after their Magic Round loss to South Sydney meant he hadn’t had a lot of time to ponder his future in recent days.
“It’s been a hectic week so I haven’t had a chance to sit down and have a look at a couple of things that have happened that have made it a little bit more complicated,” Bellamy said.
“I’m sure early next week I will be making a decision.
“I’m sick of thinking about it so I need to make a decision myself.”
The veteran coach wouldn’t reveal details of the “complications” or which way he was leaning.
“There’s a couple of things footy-wise and for the club and obviously family things come into it as well – there’s a few variables.”
The coach travelled to Queensland in the Storm’s bye weekend to spend time with his daughter and her young family but he also has his son Aaron – an assistant coach – and grandchildren based in Melbourne.
Bellamy has threatened retirement for the past 10 years but hasn’t been able to step away from the club he’s steered to three premierships.
Melbourne boss Justin Rodski said last week he thought it was a “line-ball” decision.
Former Storm player and assistant coach Jason Ryles, who is currently at the Sydney Roosters, has been touted as Bellamy’s successor.
However Ryles has also been linked to St George Illawarra, where he started his NRL playing career.
“I’m sure he will do a good job,” Bellamy said when asked if Ryles was ready for a head coach role.
“He’s been around the game for a long time and played at the highest level and he did a great job with us while he was here as an assistant and I’m sure he’s doing the same at the Roosters.”
Papali’i has point to prove to critics
Isaiah Papali’i wants to continue proving to his critics that his decision to leave grand finalists Parramatta for the struggling Wests Tigers isn’t a mis-step in his career.
Papali’i will look to help the Tigers to a third-straight win for the first time since 2018 when they take on South Sydney this weekend.
But 12 months on from announcing his departure from the Eels, the New Zealand international is still grilled by supporters over his decision to join the struggling Tigers.
“I still get it now, it’s just fans and I guess everyone’s got their biased opinions,” Papali’i said.
“I think I have got to prove to all the doubters out there that coming here was the right move.
“I feel like we’re heading on the right track.
“I think I knew coming into a new environment, I was ready to step out of my comfort zone.
“That comes with the pressure of people leaning on you and looking to you in certain moments.”
Papali’i earned a reputation as a rampaging back-rower under Brad Arthur’s guidance at Parramatta.
But this year he has yet to register a single linebreak across eight games.
“I feel I’m getting better each week, I was trying to get my fitness back in the first few weeks,” he said.
“I have had to simplify my job and I feel that in the last couple of games I’ve been more effective in my role.”
After knocking off Penrith and fellow strugglers St George Illawarra in recent weeks, Papali’i said the prospect of upsetting second-placed Souths held no fear for the Tigers.
“They are the hunted and we are the hunters,” Papali’i said.
“We are at the bottom but we’re on our way up.
“There’s no better challenge than going up against the form team in the comp and I think all the boys are really excited.”