MELBOURNE STORM skipper Cameron Smith last night declared the NRL must do more to retain its star players as Israel Folau continues to contemplate his future in the code.”I hear people at the top of our game say that young stars will keep coming through but I haven’t seen another Sonny Bill Williams come through since he left. He’s left a massive hole in our game,” an emotional Smith said.”I don’t know what way the NRL need to go about keeping all of our young stars or our older stars in the game, but I think they need to do something. You just can’t let blokes like Israel Folau leave the game – he’s only 22. I don’t know whether it’s increasing rep payments or what it is but I think we need to be working harder to keep those good players. We just can’t keep letting them leave our code to go to other codes or overseas.”You want to play against the best players in the world and I know the fans want to see all the great players play our game as well.”Meanwhile, Cooper Cronk’s week from hell will get a little brighter this afternoon when the halfback is named in the Australian Test team for this Friday’s Anzac test.Star No.7 Johnathan Thurston has been ruled out after leaving the field with a right shoulder injury just 11 minutes into the Cowboys’ loss to the carefree Melbourne Storm at Dairy Farmers Stadium, which packed in a season-high 19,853 fans – most of whom were sympathetic to the Storm.They might not be playing for points but the Storm showed they still have a point to prove, with big hits from Adam Blair and Brett Finch at the seventh and eighth minutes respectively relegating a sorry Thurston to the sheds.Many wondered if the team could replicate last week’s charged flogging of the New Zealand Warriors just three days after learning their season was effectively over; the Storm gave an emphatic yes at the 16th minute when forward Brian Norrie crossed to help the side to a 6-0 lead with Smith’s ensuing conversion. Cronk, Smith, Billy Slater, Finch and Greg Inglis dominated proceedings, at least two having a hand in all four first-half Storm tries to Norrie, Matt Duffie, Inglis and Finch.”The thing we look forward to now is enjoying our weekend and our game, and that was us having fun,” said Smith, who attempted one conversion with his right foot after a horrible night with his left. ”That’s no disrespect to the opposition; having fun is what we want to do. We’ve been told we can’t play for points and that’s a way for us to enjoy the game. Hopefully that will keep bringing the fans to the game.”I think a few of the boys took on board the comments from [Penrith coach] Matt Elliott about revolutionising the game and we’ve had a bit of a chat about the way we want to play our footy – but Globetrotters is probably going a bit far [laughs].”We just want to express our skills on-field whereas when we were playing for points, it was more of a regimented game … Now it’s about [scoring] points and [having] fun.”MELBOURNE 34 (M Duffie B Finch G Inglis J Lima D Nielsen B Norrie A Quinn tries C Smith 3 goals) bt NORTH QUEENSLAND 6 (S Bolton try A Graham goal) at Dairy Farmers Stadium. Referee: Gavin Badger, Gerard Sutton. Crowd: 19,853.
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