National News

Storm surprise, rookie Wishart at fullback

Craig Bellamy has pulled a surprise by opting for rookie Tyran Wishart at fullback for Melbourne's blockbuster NRL Magic Round clash with Penrith on Saturday night.

Earlier on Friday, coach Bellamy said he was contemplating moving five eighth Cameron Munster to the back to replace injured fellow superstar Ryan Papenhuyzen.

However on Friday night Melbourne announced Nick Meaney, who was named to wear the No.1 jersey, would move back to the wing with 22-year-old utility Wishart to play fullback.

Wishart covered at fullback when Papenhuyzen was forced out with knee and hamstring injuries in the second half of their win over the Dragons last round.

Making his debut this season, Wishart - the son of Steelers great Rod Wishart - is sure to be put under plenty of pressure by Panthers halfback Nathan Cleary in the top of the ladder clash.

Munster started his NRL career at fullback in 2014 and spent the bulk of two seasons there when Billy Slater was sidelined with shoulder injuries.

He took over the five-eighth jersey fulltime in 2018 but the 27-year-old has often spoken of his desire to return to the back.

"Munster has played plenty there so we've got some options," Bellamy had said earlier.

"He's gone there a couple of times this year ... we'll start a certain way but if that's not quite working out we can make some changes."

Following Wishart's move, Jordan Grant will come onto the bench with Cooper Johns and Tui Kamikamica remaining in the 19-man squad.

Any late change will see prop Kamikamica play his first NRL game of the year after completing a nine-week ban for an off-field incident.

The Storm are also planning to start Marion Seve in the centres despite him only playing nine NRL games in the past two seasons.

Bellamy said Seve, who had a knee reconstruction in 2020, had been knocking on the door for some time before Reimis Smith was injured.

"He's been outstanding in the Queensland Cup ... we're real confident he will do the job," he said of Seve.

Melbourne and Penrith have dominated the past two seasons, each winning a title, while they enter this sold-out Suncorp Stadium clash on top of the ladder with 8-1 records.

Some extra spice was thrown into their rivalry when it was revealed that after the 2020 grand final victory Storm halfback Jahrome Hughes drunkenly mocked the blue-collar upbringing of the Panthers, which they used as fodder for last year's preliminary final win.

Bellamy defended Hughes, who apologised to the Panthers this week for his social media antics.

"I don't know the situation from 2020 but the only thing I will say is that I've never met a better person than Jahrome Hughes," the coach said.

"He's a very humble guy and very well-mannered so if he did upset someone he would be very sorry for that."

Melbourne have piled on an incredible 162 points in their past three matches and Bellamy conceded that wasn't great for an expected arm-wrestle with the Panthers.

"If that's the way it turns out, our last three weeks hasn't been ideal preparation for that sort of game," he said.

"We can only play to our strengths and try to restrict opportunities for the opposition."

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