This was far from the case however, as the bandaged warrior guided his team to narrow win over one of League’s most in-form teams, courtesy of a field goal from 40m out.
The game was well and truly in the balance for the Storm a few times, and they very nearly lost it, with the Broncos coming back from 12-0 down, and 22-12 down, to ensure the scores were locked at 22-all.
It was a great show of character and fortitude by the Broncos in both instances, as they refused to give up, in a side that was missing Lockyer, Thaiday and Hodges, who were being rested.
Both teams had the usual stars shine, with Slater, Cronk and Smith the standouts for Melbourne, and Peter Wallace stepping up well, in the absence of Darren Lockyer.
After his man-of-the-match performance in the City/ Country clash, Storm coach Craig Bellamy was again full of praise for Ryan Hinchcliffe, who he thought, backed up their top 3 quite well.
“Ryan had a three-hour car ride and another two hours in the plane and didn’t get much sleep. It was a great effort from him,” said Bellamy.
Bellamy knows that when you have the likes of Cronk, Smith and Slater in your side, their touches at the end of games are crucial, and this game was no exception.
“You always feel reasonably safe when you got Smith, Cronk and Slater out there,” he said.
Broncos coach Anthony Griffin has no excuses about the loss, despite missing several of his test stars.
“We beat ourselves,” he said after sticking by his decision to not let his big name players back up.
“Darren Lockyer, Justin Hodges and Sam Thaiday couldn’t back up.
“Had we forced them to back up and ignored them (injuries) we would have been the dumbest club in the world.”
3 Cooper Cronk
2 Peter Wallace
1 Billy Slater