William Botoulas, Melbourne Correspondent, NRL.com
Melbourne head into Saturday night’s meeting with Canberra in unfamiliar territory where unlike seasons past they don't enjoy the luxury of wins in the bank heading into the finals.
In 2014, theirs is currently a finals berth that is far from secured.
As it stands Melbourne, heading into the weekend looking to snap a two-game losing streak, are one of five teams locked on 20 premiership points.
Captain Cameron Smith will also ditch his famous No.9 and instead don the No.16 jersey for RiseForAlex Round, in support of Alex McKinnon.
Meanwhile the Raiders will be out to extend their own streak, aiming to make it four straight wins in Melbourne.
It is not the cushy run into September the Victorian side is accustomed to and the importance of the next month is not lost within the four walls of their compound at AAMI Park.
“We are eighth after the Origin period… [now] the season starts going very, very quickly,” said veteran Ryan Hoffman.
“You need start cementing yourself in that eight and getting as close as you can to that top-four position because there are so many other teams on the same points.
“It is not like previous years where we have had a few wins under our belts so we have had a bit of a buffer there.
“We can’t afford to slow down, we need to take these next steps.”
Last week a focused Melbourne defence kept Canterbury to its lowest score of the season, despite eventually losing the game 4-6.
But inconsistency has been the buzzword in describing the Storm’s 2014 campaign, making Saturday night a crucial time to turn the tide.
“If we put in a performance like we did against the Dogs we are going to give ourselves the best opportunity,” said Hoffman.
“We did everything we could [last week] but couldn’t get the win so that really disappointed us… but we did take a lot of confidence out of the effort.
“That is the standard for our effort now. We have got to have that effort week-in, week-out for the rest of the season.”
With five of its last eight games on the road the need to shake the Raiders hoodoo this weekend becomes vital for numerous reasons.
Should the Storm fail to get the job done this weekend the reality of missing finals football may become more real than the fans in purple have become accustomed to over the past decade.
Melbourne host Canberra at AAMI Park on Saturday at 5.30pm.