Storm bracing for biggest NRL test yet - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Storm bracing for biggest NRL test yet

By Adrian Warren 28/03/2010 05:58:30 PM Comments (0)

Melbourne NRL captain Cameron Smith says his team needs less talk and more action on the field and has to lift to beat St George Illawarra in an early season blockbuster at Etihad Stadium on Good Friday.

Both teams are unbeaten after three rounds and boast the two best defensive records in the competition.

Defending premiers Melbourne maintained their perfect record by grinding out a 16-10 win over Penrith at CUA Stadium on Saturday.

The holiday fixture will be the Storm's first in Melbourne following their World Club Challenge match in England and three away assignments in the NRL.

Smith and coach Craig Bellamy emphasised Melbourne had plenty of room for improvement after "ugly" wins in the first three rounds.

Smith recognised Melbourne will have to lift significantly to meet the challenge of a Dragons outfit that Bellamy agreed was the benchmark side so far this season.

"They play a good style of football, they really starve opposition of the ball and that's what makes it really hard," Smith told AAP.

"We've had some tough wins so we are prepared for a tough match next week, it's just that we need to play a lot better than we have been doing.

"The good thing for us, although we haven't been playing good footy, is we definitely know we are better as a team than what we have been playing in the first three matches, that's a good sign for us.

"It's about less talk and more action on the field."

Smith was happy to revert back to his normal position of hooker after a spell in the halves following the successful return of halfback Cooper Cronk in Saturday's match.

Fullback Billy Slater said the Storm were looking forward to finally playing again at Melbourne, even if it's at Etihad Stadium and not at their soon-to-be-opened new home of AAMI Park.

"Our strike rate at Etihad isn't that bad, we enjoy playing there, hopefully we have a huge crowd on Friday afternoon," Slater told AAP.

"St George are playing great and they were really impressive on Friday night, so it's going to be our biggest test so far."

Adam Blair is likely to be the only player available for Friday's game, who didn't play the Panthers.

Saturday's win ensured the Storm could celebrate the 100th first grade game of superstar back Greg Inglis and the 50th senior appearance of unheralded forward Ryan Hinchcliffe.

"I appreciate playing with a guy like Greg, they don't come along too often and to be able to play your career this far with a guy like that is our pleasure," Slater said.

"Ryan Hinchcliffe, who was playing his 50th, he's a different sort of player to GI but very similar to (former Melbourne forward) Dallas Johnson, in the sense that everyone loves playing with him.

"He's just a hard worker, he's always going to give his all and he's not going to let you down."

Penrith coach Matthew Elliott lamented his team's poor ball control but said early season injuries had allowed a number of relatively inexperienced players to gain good game time.

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