Rugby league great Phil Gould fears both the Melbourne Storm and Sydney Roosters might not have enough in them to go all the way come finals time.
Both clubs have been hit with the injury bug, with the Storm losing playmaker Cameron Munster last week for 2-3 months and the Roosters losing Victor Radley and Sam Verrills to season-ending ACL injuries back in round 7.
The two clubs played out a thriller on Thursday night with the Storm coming out on top 27-25 in Golden Point.
Unfortunately for the Roosters, they were hit with further woes as winger Daniel Tupou suffered a syndesmosis injury and trio Boyd Cordner, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Lindsay Collins all copped head knocks.
The mounting toll has Gould predicting there might be some issues at the back end of the season for both clubs.
The former NSW Origin coach fears the younger premiership contenders in the Eels and Panthers may be boosted by the fact their clubs haven’t endured the same physical run as the Storm and Roosters.
“We look at the Storm and Roosters game the other night, it’s so far above the other grades of football we’re watching over the weekend, you just say they’re the two really good teams,” Gould said on Wide World of Sports’ The Final Whistle.
“But there’s a couple of teams just underneath them, the Panthers and the Eels.
“They’ve got younger legs and they’re fresher. They’re on the up.
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“I’m just wondering in another 15 weeks’ time, what it looks like at the back end of the year.
“At the end of that game the Roosters and Storm looked really physically battled, they’re getting some injuries.
“I just think the younger legs of the Eels and Panthers just might run over them at the back end of the season.”
The injury to Munster forced Storm coach Craig Bellamy to reshuffle his halves pairing and shift skipper Cameron Smith from hooker to halfback.
Although conceding that Smith can fulfill the halfback position, Gould urged the Storm to keep the 37-year-old at his traditional position of hooker to get the best out of the team.
“The Melbourne Storm are a much better team with him (Cameron Smith) playing at no.9 than they are at him playing no.7,” he said.
“He can cope at seven, he can run the course, but it limits their attack and the quality out of dummy-half.
“There were a couple of crucial times where Smith was playing at seven, that the dummy-half pass wasn’t good enough. The direction wasn’t good enough and they didn’t hold them around the middle like they usually do. That’s what Smith gives them.
“He can play at halfback, he’s a wonderful player but that’s not the best position for the team at the moment.
“His best position is playing dummy-half.”