Melbourne Storm coach Craig Bellamy has declared that despite the bitter history between the Storm and their preliminary final opponent, Manly, he wants his team to have some fire and emotion going into their Friday night clash. He just has to make sure it goes in the right direction.
The spectre of last year’s violent clash at Brookvale Oval that was marred by two ugly brawls and a host of subsequent suspensions still hovers over encounters between the teams, but Bellamy said he wanted his players primed going into the clash.
“You’d hope that we have got some emotion about it, obviously it’s a pretty important game,” Bellamy said. “At the end of the day we’ve got to channel the emotion into what we do out there and making sure that helps us perform well. That’s all we’ll be concerned about.”
“There’s obviously been some things in the past between the two clubs but that is in the past and that won’t matter Friday night.
“They’ve got a very battle-hardened side. Probably nine or 10 of their starters have been playing semi-final footy for about six years so they know what semi-finals are about and they know how to perform in the big games.”
Bellamy said he was also looking forward to the selection headache of having a group of senior players returning from injury this week.
The squad will be boosted with the likely availability of Jason Ryles [hamstring], Todd Lowrie [pectoral muscle] and Anthony Quinn [calf], who all trained fully today. Will Chambers [hamstring], who trained for part of the session, will be given until Thursday to prove his fitness.
In addition to the return of those players, Bellamy said star full-back Billy Slater showed in his performance against South Sydney in the first week of the finals series that he was getting back to his game-breaking best after his mid-season return from a knee injury.
Bellamy said he had confidence that Ryles, who has not played since round 25, had the experience to handle the long lay off.
“I think it’s about a month since [Ryles] has played a game … it’s a long time for a big guy not to have played but having said that he’s been through these situations before and experience really helps with guys who have been out injured for a little while. They know what to expect and they come back a little bit better than some of the younger guys.
“Hopefully I’ll have a few [selection] headaches. All of them are coming along pretty good. A couple of them we’ll know [tomorrow] whether they’re right to play and a couple of them we won’t know until Thursday but we’ll give them to Thursday and just see how we go from there.”
Bellamy said Slater had showed his big-match temperament by assisting in three tries against Souths – including a 65-metre break to set up the first – and scoring one of his own.
“There were some really good signs there against Souths,” Bellamy said. “He performs well every week but big games he obviously comes to the fore. The thing for me in the Souths game is how much he got involved . . . in a game like that, to have that many involvements, you’d like to think he’s getting really close to his best now.”
Bellamy also said he had learnt from last year’s disappointing preliminary final exit against the New Zealand Warriors and had lightened his team’s workload after the qualifying final win against the Rabbitohs.
“We probably haven’t [done] as many sessions,” Bellamy said. “We just thought we’ve got the week off so we might as well make the most of it and rest them up a little bit but we did have a tough session last Thursday so hopefully that will keep us in good stead.”
■The newly appointed coach of the English Super League club St Helens, Nathan Brown, was an interested onlooker at the Storm training session today. Brown, who is in Australia on a holiday, has been mentioned as a possible replacement for Tim Sheens should Wests Tigers attempt to remove their coach. The Storm’s football operation manager, Frank Ponissi, said Brown, a former St George Illawarra coach, had asked to attend a session some time ago.
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