Wanted man NAS nearing NRL return for Storm

Melissa Woods |

Nelson Asofa-Solomona is closing in on an NRL comeback after suffering a pre-season injury.
Nelson Asofa-Solomona is closing in on an NRL comeback after suffering a pre-season injury.

Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy has moved to reassure enforcer Nelson Asofa-Solomona of his value to the Storm, saying when he’s fit he’s one of their first players picked.

Asofa-Solomona has only played in reserve grade after his pre-season was interrupted by a hamstring injury, with reports his relationship with the club had soured over his omission.

The giant forward was part of Melbourne’s captain’s run ahead of their Friday night clash with Canterbury at AAMI Park with Bellamy hinting at some late line-up changes which could see him elevated from the reserves into the match-day squad.

“We’ve just got to see where he (Asofa-Solomona) finishes up, and we’ve got a couple of guys that didn’t train today,” Bellamy said.

“He’s obviously a bit closer … there’s been a lot of noise about it but he had a hamstring injury for four or five weeks going into the season and that’s obviously put him back a bit.”

Nelson Asofa-Solomona.
Nelson Asofa-Solomona charges forward during the Storm’s 2023 preliminary final loss to Penrith. (Mark Evans/AAP PHOTOS)

Bellamy said he had spoken to Asofa-Solomona, who is contracted until the end of 2027, and reassured the 28-year-old of his value to the Storm.

“I had a chat to Nelson this week,” the coach said.

“There’s been some commentary around it … we know when he’s close to his best footy, he’s going to be in our team, there’s no doubt about that.

“To expect him to come back in and play NRL after the amount of time he missed with that hamstring injury that re-occurred twice so the medical staff had to be careful with it.

“There’s a bit of hysteria around there, but when he’s back playing his best he’s going to be one of the first picked.”

Asofa-Solomona himself shut down chatter that his weight was an issue, posting a photo of himself on social media from the pre-season showing he’d dropped eight kilos through the pre-season.

“I came back in the best shape in recent years, not as fit as I would like but a good foundation weight wise,” he wrote on Instagram.

In the corresponding match in Melbourne last season, the Bulldogs shocked Melbourne by taking a 16-0 lead into halftime before banking a 26-12 victory.

Former Storm flyer Josh Addo-Carr, who returns from concussion this week, was among the tryscorers.

Josh Addo-Carr.
Josh Addo-Carr beats a Harry Grant tackle during the Bulldogs’ 2023 win in Melbourne. (James Ross/AAP PHOTOS)

This season, the Dogs have thumped Gold Coast in round three before tight losses to South Sydney and the Sydney Roosters in their last two matches.

“They’re a good side – they led the Roosters there 20 to nil or whatever it was,” Bellamy said.

“They’ve got a couple of halves there and they’re really experienced, big bodies, and they run the ball and that gives them plenty of drive.

“They’ve got a good dummy-half with pace, some experience in there as well and some younger guys who give them some fast legs so it’s going to be a tough game.”