Storm welcome cavalry back before finals

Melbourne forward Tui Kamikamica is set to play his first NRL game in almost six months against North Queensland, with winger Suliasi Vunivalu also returning.

CRAIG BELLAMY Coach of the Storm.
CRAIG BELLAMY Coach of the Storm. Picture: Darrian Traynor/Getty Images

Melbourne's depleted forward pack is set to receive a timely boost on the eve of the NRL finals, with Tui Kamikamica to make his return after almost six months out.

Kamikamica is expected to be passed fit to play North Queensland on Sunday, after undergoing back surgery in July that threatened to end his season.

After struggling to get the injury under control out of the COVID break, Kamikamica has now been back training for around a month.

Storm officials were waiting to see how he pulled up out of Saturday's final run, but were giving him every chance of facing the Cowboys along with Tom Eisenhuth (calf).

"We're really keen to get (Tui) out there" coach Craig Bellamy said.

"In the first two games he was probably in our top three (players).

"The back operation is a big operation. It's been a steady recovery from him.

"We're just hoping he can find something near what he was doing in the first two rounds.

"This is the first week he has been available so hopefully we will give him a game tomorrow and see what he's got."

Their returns would be crucial for a bench lacking experience.

Brandon Smith is also back in training from his broken jaw and could get in some game time before finals, as could Max King (achilles).

Dale Finucane is, however, not yet back in full training with his calf issue, but Nelson Asofa-Solomona is another returnee on Sunday.

In other injury news, star winger Suliasi Vunivalu is certain to make his comeback from a broken jaw after getting through the final preparations unscathed.

But the club will continue to take it easy with Ryan Papenhuyzen and his minor achilles issue, with a win on Sunday enough to all but wrap up a "home" final.

But while the Cowboys' win over St George Illawarra last week was their first in 10 games, the Storm are well aware of their main attacking threats.

They'll make a point to try and shut down Scott Drinkwater at five-eighth, the man once earmarked to be Melbourne's replacement for Billy Slater before a pectoral injury saw Papenhuyzen surpass him.

"He's a dangerous player when he has the ball in his hands and we all know what's his strength and that's running the ball," Cameron Munster said.

"He's got good footwork so we will make sure we're on our toes with him this weekend, we can't let him have too much space or he will end up crucifying us.

"He knows our systems inside out so I'm sure he will have a few tricks up his sleeve coming up against us."

STATS THAT MATTER

* Melbourne have won 10 straight against North Queensland.

* The Storm are yet to lose at Sunshine Coast Stadium.

* North Queensland have lost seven straight away games.