Melbourne are confident Cooper Cronk will be fit for the World Club Challenge despite his withdrawal from the All Stars clash due to an ongoing back injury.
The 2012 premiership-winning halfback on Thursday pulled out of the NRL All Stars side for the match against the Indigenous All Stars on February 9.
While the Storm acknowledge the injury has interrupted Cronk’s pre-season, they are hopeful he will take the field against Super League champions Leeds at Headingley on February 22.
‘‘Everyone knows Cooper is the ultimate professional and would only play in a game of this calibre if he was 100 per cent fit,’’ Storm football manager Frank Ponissi said in a statement.
‘‘Cooper’s back has been tightening up, particularly at the back end of sessions, therefore we will stand him down from training for five to seven days and continue a modified programme with the aim to be fully fit for the World Club Challenge.’’
‘‘Our medical staff, in consultation with Cooper, decided to withdraw him from the (All Stars) match as a precautionary measure to avoid any risk of further damage.’’
Cooper’s position as Wayne Bennett’s ’coach’s pick’ in the NRL All Stars side has been taken by Warriors’ playmaker Shaun Johnson.
‘‘It’s all a bit surreal for me at the moment,’’ Johnson said.
‘‘It’s exciting and I’m really looking forward to the opportunity of playing alongside so many quality players as well as being in a side coached by Wayne Bennett.
‘‘It’s a massive honour.’’