Storm braces for travel ordeal ... but it ‘beats lockdown’
MELBOURNE Storm could fly to New Zealand and back twice in the time it will take the NRL heavyweight to complete its Gosford round-trip on Saturday.
Storm faces a 15-hour travel marathon for its Round 5 match at Gosford's Central Coast Stadium against Newcastle Knights.
By 5.30pm kick-off Craig Bellamy's team will have spent 90 minutes in the air and more than two hours on the road alone.
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"We haven't really done this before (flight and) bus trip on the same day," Bellamy said.
"It is going to be a long day but we'd rather be going on a bus trip, plane trip and playing footy than sitting at home in lockdown. I know what I'd rather be doing."
Players get a row to themselves on the 80-seat chartered aircraft.
Bellamy's primary objective on the flights to and from Sydney will be to sit as far from Cameron Munster and Josh Addo-Carr as possible.
The noted pranksters posted funny videos mocking Bellamy fast asleep on flights last season.
"With those guys you always try and be on your toes," Bellamy said.
"I'm getting a bit old now so I don't mind a snooze on the plane but obviously try to stay as far away from those guys as I can."
Under strict NRL COVID-19 guidelines the visiting team must arrive at the stadium no less than four hours before the start of a game.
Despite the hectic travel arrangements, visiting teams have had a good record on the road this season.
The Roosters embarrassed the Broncos last round in Brisbane, while the Knights belted the Raiders in Sydney.
Storm recorded back-to-back wins in Sydney to start the season, including a delayed 12-hour roundtrip in Round 2.
The Knights are equal second in the standings with Penrith. The Storm sit just one point further back.
The post-match routine must also be timed to the minute to ensure the travelling party gets to Sydney for a scheduled 10.15pm departure.
Ryley Jacks is slated to start at halfback in the absence of playmaker Jahrome Hughes (hand).
Bellamy confirmed Cameron Smith was among several replacement options considered, along with emerging halfback Cooper Johns.
"We got Brandon (Smith) there. He did one of our sessions at dummy half this week and he did a great job there as well," Bellamy said.
"We certainly got that (Smith to halfback) if we want to go there but … if Cameron does play in that position I can't see him playing there for 80 minutes."