MELBOURNE coach Craig Bellamy believes the Auckland Nines could witness a potential superstar in Cameron Munster after the Storm on Thursday handed the Queensland sensation a $100,000-plus upgrade.
The 19-year-old will be the Storm’s secret weapon at the inaugural Nines event starting Saturday, just days after agreeing to a new deal keeping him in Melbourne until the end of 2017.
Storm chiefs initially discussed securing Munster, a fullback or five-eighth, for the 2016 season. But such is his precocious talent, Bellamy wanted the Rockhampton product for a longer term as Melbourne formulate a succession plan for life after Billy Slater.
Eleven years ago Bellamy blooded Slater, then an unknown rookie from Innisfail, at the 2003 World Sevens.
Within 18 months Slater was playing State of Origin for Queensland. And while Bellamy is reluctant to draw comparisons with Slater, he believes Munster could light up Eden Park this weekend with his pace, zip and attacking flair.
“He’s without a doubt one guy to look out for at the Nines,” Bellamy said as the NRL clubs celebrated the official launch of the Nines in Auckland on Friday.
“Cameron will be very handy in this tournament. I’d like to think he will get some space ... it will be good to see him in one-on-one tackle situations.
“Some people have compared him to Billy but it’s a big ask. Cameron has just started out in his career. He has a lot of good qualities and if he keeps working hard he will have a good NRL career.”
Munster made his Storm debut last weekend wearing Slater’s No.1 jumper in a trial against Canberra, sufficiently impressing Bellamy to clinch a Nines guernsey.
If you need any insight into Munster’s attacking ability, visit the Youtube website.
It features highlights reels of Munster’s tryscoring feats in last year’s Intrust Super Cup, including one remarkable solo effort in which he beat at least seven Burleigh defenders in a 70-metre dash to the line.
Standing 183cm, Munster was mentored by Broncos great Darren Lockyer during the Queensland under-20s camp last month. He has been at the Storm for just three months, but Bellamy knows a special talent when he sees one.
“For a young guy he came with a fair reputation for scoring some good tries in the Queensland Cup. I never saw any of those tries, but he has pleased me with his fitness level and attitude to training,” he said.
“Cameron has got really good vision for a young bloke, he has also got good footwork and reasonable speed.
“The thing I like is he’s really fit so he can be on the ball as often as he wants. Some guys can’t produce effort after effort but Cameron can do that, that’s a real strength.
“He hasn’t played NRL yet but there are a lot of things I like about him. Certainly his attitude to training and effort has been first-class.”
Storm teammate Justin O’Neill says his Nines colleague has the ability to succeed in the NRL.
“In the off-season, Cam has shown us he has some real talent,” he said. “He has the drive to go places and his attitude at training has been outstanding.
“He is only young and has a long way to go, but in the trial last week he showed he can play the game.”