Storm in top shape for defence: Smith - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Storm in top shape for defence: Smith

By Melissa Woods 05/03/2010 01:51:55 PM Comments (0)

With the NRL season a week away Melbourne skipper Cameron Smith says his champion side are better placed than at the same stage last year.

The Storm arrived back in Melbourne on Wednesday after clinching the World Club Challenge trophy with a hard-fought win over Leeds.

They will start their NRL title defence against Cronulla next Saturday night at Toyota Park.

Last year the Storm got off to a uncharacteristically slow start, winning only three of their first seven NRL rounds, but Smith is confident about their early prospects this season.

Despite 10 players departing the club in the off-season, including representative lock Dallas Johnson, who left to play in France, Smith felt they were an even tighter unit than last year.

Apart from Parramatta lock Todd Lowrie, the bulk of the new players in the squad have come from the under-20 championship winning Melbourne side, and have fitted straight in.

"Going back 12 months ago we weren't in as good a position," Smith said at the club's season launch.

"A lot of the newer blokes in the squad last year came from other clubs so they had to come in and learn the Storm ways and we had to get to know them and how they operate.

"This year the new guys already know our values, our work ethic, our etiquette around the club and what needs to be done on the field and training paddock.

"You can see from the match (against Leeds), with the little preparation that we've had, to play such a great game shows we're in really good shape."

Coach Craig Bellamy last month predicted that possibly two of those former under 20 players could step up to the NRL however Smith believed it could be even higher.

"The younger guys have already really put their hand up for an opportunity, guys like Rory Kostjasyn and Jesse Bromwich, he was great against Leeds.

"They are taking their opportunities rather than just being happy to be in the senior squad."

The Melbourne players have worked hard to overcome the long-haul travel to the UK, and will be given this weekend off before preparations for the Sharks begin.

Bellamy said there would be no excuses.

"We'll be flat-strap come Monday to get ready for Cronulla.

"I expect our leaders to lead the way for us next week through training and the game, there's no excuses.

"We'll be as well prepared as we can be."

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