Jahrome Hughes has had a quick impact. Photo: Daniel Pockett/Getty Images
Jahrome Hughes has had a quick impact. Photo: Daniel Pockett/Getty Images

Bellamy risks Storm’s season on ‘huge call’

JOHNATHAN Thurston believes the "massive call" to dump halfback Brodie Croft is another masterstroke from Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy.

Just two weeks out from the finals, Bellamy made the make-or-break decision to drop Croft and install untried playmaker Jahrome Hughes.

It was a gamble considering Croft led the Storm to last year's grand final and the move had the potential to put the Storm's spine out of whack.

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"It was a huge call,'' Thurston said. "To change your spine that close to the finals … massive.''

But statistics show that former fullback Hughes has outperformed Croft in several key areas, including runs, tackle busts, missed tackles and errors.

And since the halfback switch following the Storm's loss to Canberra in round 22 last month, Melbourne have won four out of their five matches. They had lost two of their past five when Bellamy decided to roll the dice.

While averaging less possessions and try assists than Croft, Hughes has missed less tackles and made fewer errors.

Jahrome Hughes has had a quick impact. Photo: AAP Image/Scott Barbour
Jahrome Hughes has had a quick impact. Photo: AAP Image/Scott Barbour

He has also busted twice as many tackles and forced seven dropouts.

Thurston, arguably the game's greatest No.7, believes Bellamy made the halves switch to ensure Cameron Munster received more ball.

"I reckon that was the thinking,'' Thurston said. "And Hughes's possessions compared to Croft's would tell you it is working, with Smith going to Munster a lot more.

"I am sure it is a ploy to get more out of Munster. He is their X-factor. Things happen around him. You want him in the game as much as possible.''

Will it be enough to prize open the Roosters? Photo: AAP Image/Scott Barbour
Will it be enough to prize open the Roosters? Photo: AAP Image/Scott Barbour

However, Thurston said there were two reasons why the new Melbourne spine of Hughes, Munster, Cameron Smith and Ryan Papenhuyzen might not be enough to beat the Sydney Roosters in Saturday night's preliminary final.

"They have been travelling pretty well as a combination,'' Thurston said. "Hughes looks like he is getting more comfortable and I think they are defensively a better team with him in the halves.

"But I still don't think they have enough points in them … and I don't think they have those points with Croft there, either.

"They also haven't had a lot of time to gel, especially after Munster was rested from the Cowboys game."

Thurston said the switch could have been made with a Roosters showdown in mind after Munster was shut out of last year's grand final.

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"The Roosters' game plan last year was to kick down Munster's side to take him out,''

Thurston said.

"He was always on the short side and out of play. By doing that they knew Croft wouldn't

demand the ball and try and take on that left edge of the Roosters.''

Croft v Hughes

Brodie CoftJahrome Hughes
Games: 55
Wins: 34
Tries: 11
Possessions PG: 44.232.6
Metres PG: 5240
Tackle Busts: 714
Try Assists: 43
Errors: 61
Kick Metres PG: 163126
Tackles PG: 2019.4
Missed PG: 1.60.8