Smith happy to prove critics wrong
The Melbourne Storm should not even be here. By this time of year the "experts" thought they would be sitting back and watching the finals with the rest of us.
The Storm's Big Three were well into their 30s and if they could no longer fire at full capacity, neither could this team – or so the theory went.
However on Saturday night that same team will host a Preliminary Final against North Queensland in front of a sell-out crowd at AAMI Park. It is a far cry from the pre-season predictions that had the Storm missing the finals altogether.
Will those doubters be the team's motivation on Saturday night? No. But has it provided the drive to get this far?
"Maybe a little bit, to be honest," Storm captain Cameron Smith said.
"In most people and particularly sportsmen, there is a lot of pride about what we do. When people start knocking your team or your team's ability I think you take a bit of offence to that.
"I'm not going out there and none of the boys are going out there to do it for anyone other than ourselves and to prove we are a great side that is still capable of being in the big games at the end of the year."
Home games do not get much bigger than this Saturday night when almost 30,000 fans will pack out AAMI Park in a sea of purple.
The Cowboys have won just two of their 11 games in Melbourne, with their most recent visit resulting in a 14-6 defeat just three weeks ago.
The game that night was played out in rain-soaked conditions but if the weather man is doing his job it looks to be clear conditions across the weekend.
Saturday's match is the only show in Melbourne-town with both of this weekend's AFL matches being played over in Western Australia.
That has allowed the Storm to take centre stage in the city and the fans have responded by snapping up tickets from the moment they came on sale.
Smith is a man well accustomed to a hostile reception whenever the team travels throughout the year but on Saturday nights he will appreciate the fact that the tables will well and truly be turned.
"Absolutely, it is great the city has embraced the opportunity that we've got tomorrow with no AFL in town," Smith said.
"The club administration and the NRL have done a great job in promoting the game. We've had a lot of air time here in the local newspapers and TV.
"Everyone knows that the Victorian people love their sport. To have 22,000 tickets sold by mid-week was fantastic and to learn that it was a sell-out yesterday afternoon, two days prior to kickoff, was amazing.
"The boys are really looking forward to it but the one thing we do realise is that running out there with a sold-out crowd isn't going to give us a result. It is going to help us... but ultimately it comes down to our performance."
This video first appeared on melbournestorm.com.au