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Once more with feeling: Storm face old finals foes

MELBOURNE coach Craig Bellamy isn’t silly enough to claim there will be no emotion in Friday night’s preliminary final clash against Manly.
Nanjing Night Net

The two clubs have battled regularly and – in the case of last year’s infamous Donnybrookvale clash – violently. They have also clashed in grand finals in 2007 and 2008, giving the feeling that the history between the two sides is incomparable to any NRL clubs over the past five years. Combine that with a grand-final qualifier and Bellamy fully expects emotion. Just not the variety that causes sideline brawls and send-offs.

”You’d hope that we have some emotion about it, because it’s a pretty important game,” Bellamy said yesterday. ”We have to channel our emotion into what we do out there and making sure we’re doing what 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 come Friday night.”

Melbourne beat the Sea Eagles in the 2007 decider, while the Sea Eagles returned the favour in 2008. Both teams went on to win a grand final subsequently, although, as we all know, Melbourne’s two victories since 2007 are followed by a hefty asterisk.

Recent history has been more maroon than purple. The Sea Eagles are the current premiers, while the Storm were bundled out at this stage of the season last year, losing to the Warriors in the preliminary final. That led to suggestions that the Storm could not lift in the finals, that their forwards were too small and that they were too reliant on Cameron Smith, Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk. Bellamy admitted he changed his team’s routine this year in a bid to avoid a repeat of last year’s loss.

”We probably haven’t worked as hard as we did last year [during the break for the semi-finals],” Bellamy said. ”When I say ‘hard’, we haven’t had as many sessions as last year. We just thought ‘we’ve got the week off, so we may as well make the most of it and rest up a little bit’.”

Bellamy sees different circumstances and a different team, too.

”We’d like to think we learnt a few of things from last year. At the start of the year, we thought we needed a couple of bigger bodies in our team and we’ve done that. We just need to make sure that we train well this week and hopefully put a good performance in on Friday night,” he said.

One big difference from last year is the fact that the Storm were the standout team of the qualifying finals stage, in contrast to 2011. And they accounted for South Sydney without five players who could ordinarily demand selection – Jason Ryles (hamstring), Todd Lowrie (pectoral muscle), Anthony Quinn (calf), Will Chambers (hamstring) and Sika Manu (back). All could be set for a return against the Sea Eagles.

”Hopefully I’ll have a few headaches there,” Bellamy said. ”All of them are coming along pretty good. A couple of them, we’ll know [today] whether they’re right to play and a couple of them, we won’t know until Thursday. But we’ll give them until Thursday.

”The guys that have been out have played most of the year. We’ll pick what we think is the best team out of what comes out of our injuries.”

The Sea Eagles have not been at their best through the finals but Bellamy is wary as they historically produce their best football at this stage of the year.

”It was a tough, physical game, which is what you expect from Manly,” Bellamy said of the Sea Eagles’ semi-final win over North Queensland. ”At this time of year, they’ve got a very battle-hardened side … They know what semi-finals are about.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.