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Warriors hooker Nathan Friend realises that his former club, the Melbourne Storm will be up for a big game after their recent poor performances.
Last week the Warriors escaped to Wollongong just in time to miss New Zealand feeling the wrath of Cyclone Ita, but this week are preparing for a Storm backlash of a totally different kind.

It is pretty rare for Melbourne to lose a close game of rugby league, such is the clinical skill and desire within their side. It is even rarer for them to produce two poor performances in a row, and former Storm hooker Nathan Friend knows his old mates will be hurting after a last-minute loss to the Raiders five days ago.

“They are a proud club and they will back it up Friday,” said Friend, who is now in his third season with the Warriors.

“The boys will have fire coming out of their ears, it will be a great occasion. The calibre of players you are coming up against brings the best out in the Kiwis over here. I am glad I am on our side.

“We are up against it but we are certainly in every contest, so there is no reason why we can’t do well.”

Through the first seven weeks of the competition Friend has been smearing humble pie all over the faces of those who very nearly forced him out of the Warriors last year.

The headgear-wearing rake currently leads the NRL in tackles made, with an average of 53 per game. His 52 points average on NRL Fantasy also has him sitting as the 16th highest scorer in the entire competition.

But as is the case for any No.9 coming up against Cameron Smith, he will have to step it up a level if he is to contain arguably the world’s best player.

“He is the best for many reasons, he knows when to take the right options, his kicking game is awesome and he runs when he is required,” Friend said.

“But it is his defence [that is most important], he is always covering here and there, he can read the game a few plays ahead, which sets him apart.

“But I am healthy and feeling really good, if we could string a few victories together I would be even better.”

The Warriors and Storm have a rich history of close encounters. Only the Bulldogs have a better winning percentage against the Storm than that of the Kiwi club, who win 42 per cent of the time against Melbourne.

Ahead of the fifth instalment of the Anzac Day clash between the two sides, Warriors coach Andrew McFadden said his team needed no help with motivation this week.

“The boys will definitely be keen against Melbourne, it is a special day remembering our troops and that always adds a bit of spice, I am sure it will be great occasion,” McFadden said.

Despite slumping to a third straight loss last Saturday against the Dragons, McFadden is confident his side is improving, and has boosted the forward pack this week by including Feleti Mateo on the bench.

“I think our execution of last plays was a big factor in last week’s loss. We made more line breaks than them, we just didn’t have any polish on our ends of sets,” McFadden said.

“I am pretty happy with what Feleti is going to add to the team, he has had some things to work on, I have seen that and he is certainly going to add some strike to our forward pack.”

In their last seven visits to the Victorian capital the Warriors have three wins, three losses and a draw, and will fondly remember their last win at AAMI Park when they sprung a surprise victory to qualify for the 2011 Grand Final.

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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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