Bronco Ben chasing Storm success
He's one of Brisbane's most senior players having made almost 150 appearances for the club; yet veteran prop Ben Hannant has only ever tasted victory once against the Melbourne Storm in Broncos' colours.
Since debuting for the Roosters in 2005, the blonde bookend has gone onto play 191 NRL games – 146 of them with the Broncos – and 37 in a brief stint with the Bulldogs during the 2009-10 seasons.
Hannant will line up for his 16th career match against the Storm in Friday's do-or-die clash at AAMI Park and although the 29-year-old has only ever won against Melbourne on three occasions, two of those came while playing for Canterbury with the one and only victory for Brisbane coming in the 2006 Grand Final.
While he may not have the best record when it comes to calming the Storm, Hannant has seen enough over his 10 seasons in the NRL to know not only what makes the Storm so hard to beat, but also how to go about beating them.
"They're such a clinical team. They know their role, they've got great senior players and they all blend into that culture. They've got a great coach and have been very consistent over the past decade," Hannant said.
"They do all the little things right – they kick-chase, they pressure your kickers. So if you don’t finish your sets off well you know that Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith are the best in their position and it'll seem like they've got all the time in the world for their kicking game.
"Their combinations go really well [together] and their forwards lay a nice platform for them and allows their big three (Cronk, Smith and Billy Slater) to do what they do.
"We know on their day they can beat anyone, but it's a matter of us making sure we are on our game and we are confident that at our best we can hold up against any team in this competition."
The Storm currently has a superior head-to-head record over every team in the NRL except for the Bulldogs and are currently on a seven-game winning run against the Broncos with Brisbane's last victory over Melbourne coming in Round 9, 2010, when they won 36-14 at AAMI Park.
Hannant, who is yet to be offered a new deal beyond this season meaning Friday's must-win match could potentially be his last for the Broncos, believes there are no real secrets to defeating the Storm other than slugging it out with them for the duration of the contest.
"You size yourself up against their forward pack and see where you can match it with them and where you can get into an arm wrestle with them… You're going into an 80-minute contest," he said.
"We're very confident that if we know our role and we stick with it and 17 players execute it, we'll stay in the arm wrestle. That's what we want as a team.
"In big games you need to win the middle third of the field. If you squeeze the life out of them in the middle it takes the time away from their halves and their hookers and they'll be taking it out of their end of the field.
"So it's very important we win the middle third of the field and this week it's just as important, if not more important than any other week that we dominate the midfield.
"We've got no doubt that Melbourne will be prepared and at their best and we've got to make sure we improve on what we did last week and that we are at our best because if we're not, we'll be finishing our season off."
Meanwhile the one-game suspension of Sam Thaiday has opened the door for Hannant to move back into the starting side and push for more game time as he endeavours to earn a new contract.
"This is the time of the year you want to be out on the field and staying out there as long as possible to get into the grind with the best teams in the competition," he said.
"So to get the opportunity [to start], I'll make sure I'm prepared right and do my best."
Either Hannant or Corey Oates are the likely replacements for Thaiday in the starting side with former Storm premiership winner Todd Lowrie expected to come onto the bench.