Cronk plays down halves battle

Melbourne halfback Cooper Cronk is playing down the battle of the halves ahead of Thursday night's showdown against Brisbane playmakers Ben Hunt and Anthony Milford.

Coming off Saturday's gritty 14-6 win against the third-placed Cowboys in tough conditions at AAMI Park, the Storm have gone into camp on the Sunshine Coast due to a short five-day turnaround ahead of the Suncorp Stadium showdown.

 

Thursday's encounter will be the third match in 10 days for the Storm as they look to ambush the Broncos on their own turf and spoil the club's official farewell of Justin Hodges.

Anything less than a win would end Melbourne's hopes of a top-four finish, while a loss could see them drop to seventh by the conclusion of Round 26 should other results go against them.

Standing between the Storm and a potential top-four berth are Brisbane halves Hunt and Milford, who ran rings around the Rabbitohs in last Thursday's comprehensive 47-12 win at Allianz Stadium.

While much of the pre-game talk will focus on the halves battle, Cronk believes that won't be the deciding factor of the game.

"Wayne [Bennett] has gone to the Broncos and created a really good environment and mixed in a bit of speed and athleticism into their play," Cronk said.

"They're a great combination and obviously getting a lot of wraps, but at no stage is it going to be halves verses halves – the game's played down the middle third of the field, if you generate quick play-the-balls you can jump off the back of that."

Cronk said the Storm were chasing consistency heading into the business end of the season after   failing to string more than three wins together all year.

"We weren't that great against Newcastle [in Round 24] but we turned the tables really well and played a consistent game of football on Saturday night [against the Cowboys]," he said.

"Our focus this week will be on what we did well last week and maintaining that and improving on other areas where we didn't do so well.

"We've lost to teams below us on the ladder and we've played some really good football against team who are above us on the ladder.

"We know our best football is super competitive and we know our average games are below-par and not to the standard we want to play at."

Meanwhile, Cronk is playing down the rivalry between Brisbane and Melbourne, with the Broncos snapping an eight-game losing streak against the Storm in their 14-12 away win Round 15.

The Queensland and Australian halfback said both clubs had a mutual respect for each other and one that had grown even further over the years.

"Both clubs have been pretty successful and played off in the 2006 grand final," he said. 

"Craig Bellamy has come from there, a lot of guys have grown up in Brisbane and played for the Melbourne Storm so there is a rivalry but it's based on respect.

"The Broncos are a very good football team and that's why they're in the top two.

"History will show they are normally classic encounters and Thursday will probably be exactly the same.

"It's going to be a great game to kick off the last round of the season and I'm looking forward to a big game at Suncorp."