Craig Bellamy at press conference after round three loss. Photo: melbournestorm.com.au

Queensland's COVID outbreak has forced NRL players out of the Queensland Cup and Craig Bellamy is concerned about his side's match fitness.

Although the Brisbane Broncos have been granted an exemption to enter Victoria for Friday’s clash with the Storm, the headaches for the Melbourne based club have not stopped.

Seven Storm players were forced to isolate at home during the week after travelling to Townsville to play a reserve grade game for the Brisbane Tigers.

As the ‘bubble’ conditions have been reinstated across the league coach Craig Bellamy has shifted his focus as to how those outside the selected 17 can obtain the necessary match fitness to be selected with players unable to play in the Queensland Cup indefinitely.

“A lot of our younger players really suffered last year because they didn’t play any footy at all because the Queensland cup and the New South Wales cup didn’t run their competitions,” Craig Bellamy said at his press conference on Wednesday.

“So hopefully that doesn’t happen again this year, hopefully it’s just a couple of weeks and then our younger players and guys just outside the 17 can get back into some match practice.”

Over the next couple of weeks, the Storm expect premiership winger Brenko Lee, new skipper Dale Finucane and Dally M Rookie of the Year winner Harry Grant to return from preseason injuries.

Lee was slated to return first, with a plan to return through the reserve grade side interrupted by the COVID outbreak in Brisbane.  

“He has had a very limited preparation; he’s had a calf injury then a hamstring injury,” Bellamy said.

“He is back to full training now, but those guys went to Townsville and basically got off the plane and got back on again and come back that’s not good preparation for a game.”

“The next thing that happens is that there not allowed to train with us, so the only time he has trained with us all week is today which is obviously a very minimal session so it’s really hard to put a guy in that has had the preseason he has had and he hasn’t played a game yet.”

The club will be forced to adopt a new strategy as it tries to bring their players back into the fold.

“I don’t think our Queensland cup players will be playing for a few weeks by the sound of it, so we just need to go and maybe do some extra training while we get back into that full training and go from there,” Bellamy said.

Despite the uncertainty surrounding the return of key personnel Bellamy conceded injuries are an expected part of the game and he has been pleased with the effort of the players who have played in the opening three rounds.

“We’d obviously like Harry back, we’d like Dale back, we’d like Brenko back and there’s a few other guys out there but that’s what happens to all teams, all teams go through a stage where you have key players out,” he said.

“I have been really happy with the effort overall; it is just a couple of key moments where we haven’t turned up where we should’ve turned up.”

“Hopefully we can get those guys back and have the other guys stay fit and hopefully we can stay competitive.”

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