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Having treasured past visits to

  • 10 May
    The NRL have been forced to search for two clubs to participate in the annual World Club Challenge after 2016 runners-up Melbourne snubbed an invite on Monday.Storm CEO Dave Donaghy said that with a number of their stars already travelling to England for the upcoming Four Nations tour, the club opted to prepare for their 2017 campaign at home.As a club, weve decided that staying in Australia will provide our team with the best possible preparation for the 2017 NRL season, Donaghy said.Having treasured past visits to the UK in 2008, 2010 and 2013, we thoroughly value the concept of the World Club Challenge.However a regular NRL season is already incredibly taxing and, as a non-Sydney team, our players travel more than most.The Storms snub of the six-team tournament is sure to raise the validity of the Challenge, with this seasons top eight teams reportedly reluctant to travel to England in February.NRL premiers Cronulla are locked in to face Super League champions Wigan, however the NRL will now have to look at the bottom half of their table to represent Australia.Top eight finishers Canberra, North Queensland, Brisbane, Penrith, Canterbury and Gold Coast are all understood to be hesitant on participating in the tournament.Donaghy said staying at home would be a more prudent way for the Storm to prepare for 2017.We have committed to playing two trial matches in Australia which we believe will serve as a better lead-in for the team ahead of next years opening round, he said.We wish Cronulla all the best as the NRLs representative against the champion team of England, Wigan.The Storm have a total of five players representing Australia and New Zealand in this weekends Test match in Perth, before the sides meet again in the Four Nations later this month.The Sydney Roosters participation in the 2016 series in February, where they beat St Helens 38-12, may back up the clubs concerns about player burn-out close to the season opener.The 2015 minor premiers lost the first eight games of the season, although there were other contributing factors to their poor start including Mitchell Pearces suspension.Fellow participants Brisbane and North Queensland fared considerably better, with the 2015 premiers winning three of their five NRL starts in 2016 and the Broncos four. 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They reached the 100-point plateau for the fourth time in five games, bested the visiting Trail Blazers by 34 in the paint and scored 19 of the final 25 points in regulation. Gold Coast coach Rodney Eade is unsure if his team can continue their current rate of improvement without Gary Ablett and Michael Rischitelli, who both face potentially long spells on the sideline.The Suns beat Brisbane by 26 points in Saturdays AFL Q-Clash at Metricon Stadium, but Ablett (shoulder) and Rischtielli (knee) went down with what appeared to be serious injuries.Scans on Monday will reveal more but the early signs are discouraging.While their next best midfielder, Dion Prestia, could miss next weekends clash with the Western Bulldogs due to a knee injury.Ablett reinjured his left shoulder - the same one he dislocated two years ago - when Mitch Robinson shrugged off a tackle attempt from the two-time Brownlow winner in the final term.Rischitelli, meanwhile, heard the dreaded pop sound that indicates anterior cruciate ligament damage when he wrongfooted and collapsed to the turf while chasingg Robinson in the opening minutes.ddddddddddddEade was left to wonder what the Suns have done to deserve such wretched luck on the injury front, and to ponder what it will mean for the rest of the season.Having just booked back-to-back wins to snap a 10-game losing streak, the momentum Gold Coast has built up is at risk without Ablett and Rischitelli, two hardened, experienced and effective on-ballers.Theres teams weve seen at the moment that have won a lot of games but they start to struggle because theyve got five or six players out, Eade said.Its never an excuse but its always a reality and theres always a tipping point with that. But well look for improvement like we have in the past.Well test teams, theres no doubt about that. We won the last quarter without (Ablett). ' ' '