Storm ‘hopeful’ of Asofa-Solomona return

Troy Whittaker |

Melbourne haven’t given up on Nelson Asofa-Solomona returning to the club for the 2022 NRL season, despite his stance against vaccination.

The towering prop’s refusal to receive the COVID-19 vaccine — a requirement to train and play under Victorian government health orders — has resulted in him being absent from the Storm during the pre-season.

Despite being contracted to Melbourne until the end of 2023, Asofa-Solomona is reportedly considering a move to Japanese rugby — where vaccination isn’t mandated.

However, Melbourne are striving to reach a resolution with the two-time premiership winner so he can play in the NRL this year.

“We’re really still hopeful and optimistic that he’ll be able to return to commence official pre-season training sooner rather than later,” Storm CEO Justin Rodski told SEN Drive on Wednesday.

“He has been training away from the club. He has a program at the moment, so we know that he’s keeping himself in good condition.

“In terms of time frame on that (resolving the situation), I actually couldn’t say at the moment. It is a sensitive one and we’re working through that.

“The process is there and we’re hopeful that we’ll be able to resolve it in the coming weeks.”

Melbourne captain Jesse Bromwich revealed in December that Asofa-Solomona hadn’t been responding to concerned teammates.

“I’m very hopeful that NAS will come back, he’s a powerful man and a big part of our team,” Bromwich told reporters at the time.

“A lot of us boys care deeply for him and I’ve tried to reach out to him but I didn’t get anything back.”

The Storm are a month out from their opening trial against the Warriors at Casey Fields on February 19.

The pre-season hit-out has been branded the Unite for Tonga match and will serve as a fundraiser for communities affected by the recent tsunami.