Melbourne reclaim united front - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Melbourne reclaim united front

By Todd Balym 28/09/2008 06:17:56 PM Comments (0)

Melbourne won last year's premiership with a "together07" theme but it is that work ethic and commitment to each other that prop Brett White admits has been missing until now.

The Storm enter their third grand final is as many years next week as the underdogs against Manly even though both clubs produced emphatic preliminary final wins at the weekend.

Melbourne's 28-0 shutout of Cronulla and Manly's 32-6 belting of the Warriors showed both 2007 grand finalists will enter a 2008 re-match in top form.

But while Manly have had smooth sailing into the decider the Storm have conquered a rough ride including shock losses, suspensions and a key injury.

They overcame the absence of three internationals - captain Cameron Smith (suspension), Jeremy Smith (suspension) and Ryan Hoffman (ankle) - against the Sharks to produce their most dominant and complete performance of the finals.

White said it was the first time he had seen the Storm actually play as a team in several weeks and highlights the round 25 loss to Newcastle and shock qualifying final defeat to the Warriors as the wake-up calls they had to have.

"I brought it up a few weeks ago that I thought we had gone away from that (team attitude)," said White.

"It's been a long time since I thought we had pulled together and really played like a team.

"Heading into the finals we had a couple of easy runs and we lost a couple to Newcastle and the Warriors.

"(Against Cronulla) I felt like we got that back where we all pulled together and we all did our job.

"I think we've got it back now."

Part of Melbourne's united front against the Sharks stemmed from the club's anger at what coach Craig Bellamy described as a media-driven campaign that resulted in skipper Smith being banned for the rest of the season by the NRL judiciary.

White could face a similar fate to Smith on Monday with the match review committee to scrutinise an incident with Cronulla prop Ben Ross when the Storm forward appeared to elbow his rival in the head.

The NSW prop doesn't believe he will be charged for the incident, but even if he is White doesn't believe it would distract his teammates from preparing for next Sunday's decider.

"There is always a lot said in the football world but at the end of the day it is what happens out there on the field in that 80 minutes that really matters," said White.

"Anything can happen to you off the field and anything can happen to the team but it is what happens on the field that counts.

"We just focus on the football game."

Kiwi Test forward Jeremy Smith will return from suspension for the grand final with rookie Aiden Tolman the man most likely to drop out of the side if White is cleared to play.

Hooker Smith and backrower Hoffman remain unavailable but White believes their replacements, Russell Aitken and Scott Anderson, can produce in the biggest arena next week.

"Someone like Scott Anderson came in (against Cronulla) and he was one of the best forwards and got us quick play the balls," he said.

"Russell Aitken came in with big shoes to fill and he did really well.

"It doesn't matter who is out because the boys that come in do a good job."

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