Melbourne have not given up on Nelson Asofa-Solomona’s return to the club for the 2022 NRL season, despite their stance against vaccination.
The hulking prop’s refusal to receive the COVID-19 vaccine – a requirement to train and play under Victorian government health orders – led to him being absent from the Storm during pre-season.
Despite being contracted to Melbourne until the end of 2023, Asofa-Solomona is reportedly considering a switch to Japanese rugby – where vaccination is not compulsory.
However, Melbourne are struggling to reach a resolution with the two-time premiership winner so he can play in the NRL this year.
“We still have hope and optimism that he can return to start official pre-season training as soon as possible,” Storm CEO Justin Rodski told SEN Drive on Wednesday.
“He’s been training away from the club. He has a program at the moment so we know he’s keeping himself in good condition.
“In terms of the timeline on this (resolving the situation), I actually couldn’t say at the moment. It’s a sensitive issue and we’re working on it.
“The process is there and we hope to be able to resolve it in the coming weeks.”
Melbourne captain Jesse Bromwich revealed in December that Asofa-Solomona failed to respond to concerned teammates.
“I’m hopeful NAS will come back, he’s a powerful man and a big part of our squad,” Bromwich told reporters at the time.
“Many of us boys care deeply about him and I tried to contact him but got nothing in return.”
The Storms are a month away from their first trial against the Warriors at Casey Fields on Feb. 19.
The pre-season hit-out has been dubbed the Unite for Tonga match and will serve as a fundraiser for communities affected by the recent tsunami.