Melbourne Storm have been hit by the late withdrawal of Jahrome Hughes ahead of the Magic Round clash with the Penrith Panthers on Saturday evening.
The Storm have confirmed in a statement that Hughes will miss out with a calf injury. It is yet another body blow for the Storm ahead of one of the biggest games of the season. They have already lost star fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen and Reimis Smith.
Papenhuyzen has knee and hamstring injuries and is looking at six weeks out. Smith is looking at 12 weeks after suffering a torn pectoral.
Storm coach Craig Bellamy thought he had his side to face the Panthers sorted. Tyran Wishart is set to deputise at fullback in place of Papenhuyzen, with Nick Meaney playing on the wing.
Melbourne Storm forced in to more changes
Now Bellamy needs to make another change in the halves due to the loss of Hughes. Cooper Johns who was on the extended bench looks set to get the nod.
The Storm confirmed the news in the build up to the Panthers clash. They also revealed it is not serious and should only keep him out for a week.
“Jahrome Hughes has been ruled out of tonight’s Magic Round clash against the Penrith Panthers due to a calf injury,” the statement read. “We are hoping he will be ready for next weekend’s clash against the North Queensland Cowboys in Townsville.”
It means Hughes will not be up against the Panthers players he criticised back in 2020. And he may have escaped a night of extra attention from the Penrith players.
In the aftermath of the 2020 grand final win over the Panthers, Hughes was caught on social media mocking some of the Panthers stars.
Jahrome Hughes controversy
Penrith apparently used it as motivation to hit back and defeat the Storm in last season’s preliminary final. Hughes has since apologised for the drunken antics. Meanwhile Bellamy also defended his player in the build up to tonight’s game.
“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.”
But now there is no danger of it spilling on to the pitch with Hughes ruled out.
Both teams are locked on 16 points at the top of the ladder after suffering just one defeat each. The Panthers are hurting after losing to Parramatta last week and are expected to come out flying.