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Storm have different focus: Smith

By John Salvado 16/09/2009 04:51:37 PM Comments (0)

Melbourne captain Cameron Smith says winning a fourth straight NRL minor premiership was never a target for the Storm in 2009.

And that approach is now paying dividends, with Melbourne peaking at the ideal time and gifted a week off after higher-ranked teams St George Illawarra and the Gold Coast both lost their opening playoff games.

Having finished the home and away season fourth on the ladder, Melbourne are now premiership favourites after dumping defending champions Manly out of the finals.

"There's been no talk of the minor premiership this year at all," Smith said before training on Wednesday.

"Compared to the last three, where we were in the position to get the minor premiership and last year it was probably the undoing of us really.

"Because it was so close at the end between three teams (Melbourne, Manly and Cronulla), we pushed so hard to get that minor premiership because we took it as a big deal and then really in the end we just ran out of gas in the grand final and were beaten by a better team.

"But this year, because we've had a bit of an up-and-down season, we really haven't been in the hunt for the minor premiership so it hasn't been our focus.

"Our focus was to be in the top four because we considered ourselves a top-four side and I think it's worked.

"We haven't wasted any energy on trying to do something we couldn't achieve."

The Storm suffered a shock loss to the eighth-placed Warriors in the first week of the 2008 finals series before scraping past the Broncos in Brisbane in week two, narrowly avoiding the ignominy of a straight-sets exit.

It's the same scenario now facing minor premiers the Dragons, who must travel to Brisbane after losing at home to eighth-ranked Parramatta.

"It's certainly something in the back of your mind - it was with us," said Smith.

"Finishing as minor premiers, there were a lot of expectations on yourself and from the public to go all the way to the grand final.

"But with a coach like (the Dragons') Wayne Bennett I don't think he'll have his players thinking like that at all.

"Their mindset will be a tough match against quality opposition in the Broncos if they want to progress through the finals.

"Any other mindset in that game and it's not worth turning up to Suncorp."

The winner of that match plays the Storm in a preliminary final at Etihad Stadium on Saturday 26, the same day as the AFL grand final across town at the MCG.

Smith was confident the Storm could still attract a crowd of more than 40,000, with many supporters attending both matches.

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