Storm youngsters must lift over Origin
While the Storm are sitting equal first with a win-loss record of 9-2 after their first bye, they know that one of the toughest periods of their season is upon them.
The Origin weeks haven't been kind to the Melbourne Storm in recent years, and prop Jordan McLean is wary that his younger teammates need to step up and fill the voids left by superstars Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk.
"Obviously the Origin period is tough for a lot of teams, so I suppose it's about the younger blokes standing up and making the most of their opportunities when they get them, and everyone putting in a good performance," McLean told NRL.com.
Melbourne have put themselves in a great position at this point of the season, and while the 24-year-old applauds their early season efforts he knows there's still a long way to go.
"Defensively we've been pretty solid for the last 11 weeks, but at the start there we were a bit scratchy with our attack," McLean said.
"We've worked really hard on that and I think it's come along pretty well, so I think overall we're pretty happy with where we're at, at this stage, but the season is still long so we've got jobs to do."
With Smith and Cronk away on Queensland duty this week, more responsibility has fallen on new club leadership group members Jesse Bromwich and Blake Green but McLean knows the entire squad will need to lift on Saturday night against the Panthers.
"They [Bromwich and Green] are only two people out of the 17 that play on the weekend, so everyone's got to pull the slack, we've all got a job to do this weekend," McLean said.
The Storm comes home to AAMI Park for the first time since Anzac Day and will face Penrith on Saturday night, and McLean is fully aware of the challenge the Panthers present.
"They've got a lot of spark in their attack, they've got players that like to offload and throw the ball and around and they like second phase play, so that's something that we'll have a look at," he said.
There's another game on everyone's mind before Saturday, and while McLean is rooting for his home state in Wednesday night's Origin I he is mostly hopeful his teammates can make it through unscathed.
"I'm from NSW so I'm always backing the Blues, but I always just hope that our boys come back safe," he said.