Storm to reel in Sharks' enthusiasm
A young Cronulla squad will arrive in Melbourne looking to cause one of the upsets of the season on Saturday night, and the Storm know it.
The Sydney-siders may be sitting last on the ladder with just one win banked from their previous five games but the Storm are adamant they will not be taking Cronulla lightly on Saturday.
Since last week’s after-the-siren loss to the Knights, Melbourne have been ruing their missed opportunity to move into outright fifth on the NRL ladder.
As it currently stands only points differential is keeping them in the top eight. There is no room for error for the Victorian side in the final four games of the season.
“We can’t afford to lose many more games so for us it is just a matter of going back to the drawing board and adjusting that attitude and hopefully we turn up on the weekend,” said Storm five-eighth Ben Roberts.
“After the way we’ve played in the last month we sort of let ourselves down with the result and the way we played last weekend so it is just a matter to get back to that game plan and attitude.”
Standing in their way on Saturday will be the Sharks, whose recent form has been better than their 16th place suggests.
A Round 20 win over the third-placed Panthers was followed by a competitive showing against the Eels and even last week’s narrow loss to the Warriors saw Cronulla keep the competition’s third-best attacking side scoreless in the second half.
An intriguing thought going into this game is that Melbourne have already lost to the Knights, Titans and Raiders this season – the three teams keeping Cronulla company in the bottom four.
However with Andrew Fiffita (broken arm) and Sam Tagataese (suspended) having their 2014 campaigns ended prematurely the Sharks make the trip south with a youthful playing group.
Ten players in James Shepherd’s 17-man squad are 25 years or younger.
However, that may prove their downfall up against a Storm side so full of finals and representative experience - although that is not how the home side is seeing it.
“For us we are not taking them lightly, with youth comes a lot of enthusiasm,” said Roberts.
“We are expecting it to be a tough game so for us it is a matter of going out there and treating it like any other game.
“Also having Paul Gallen back this week, he will be a big lift for them.”
Whether that lift and enthusiasm will translate into a memorable victory remains to be seen.
One thing is for sure though: this Storm side is well aware that a season that has been full of ups and downs can only afford to head in one direction.