Under-manned Storm vow to uphold standards
Between them they amount to 334 kilograms of prime Melbourne Storm beef missing this week but halfback Cooper Cronk says that the club's expectation on all players will ensure they put in a performance against the Titans that they can be proud of.
In the wake of the season-ending knee injury to Christian Welch the Storm go into their clash against the Titans in the opening game of the Suncorp Stadium double-header on Saturday night also without Nelson Asofa-Solomona (hand injury) and the suspended Jesse Bromwich.
Their absence has thrust Jordan McLean and Tim Glasby into starting roles, a role not unfamiliar to McLean who spent last week in camp with the Kangaroos but will be just the second time this season Glasby has been asked to be part of the starting 13.
It also opens the door for Mark Nicholls to play just his third game for the club in two seasons, Tohu Harris to play his first NRL game of the year after suffering a broken foot in pre-season and youngsters such as Joe Stimson, Dean Britt and Tui Kamikamica to push for a place in the 17 and add another important lesson to their NRL education.
Suncorp Stadium officials are predicting a crowd in excess of 45,000 for Saturday night and Cronk emphasised the need for those who do come into the squad to step up and embrace the occasion.
"We are down on stock, there's no doubt about that but the motto at Melbourne Storm is that next man up has a job to do," Cronk said on the eve of the match.
"While the individual brilliance of individual players does help our team from time to time, the way that we play football is all based on the 17 players. Everyone has got a role to play so there'll be some guys within that 21-man squad that will get an opportunity tomorrow night in a pretty big stadium with a lot of people watching on a pretty intense showpiece.
"That's what football's about and that's what guys who don't have a lot of experience need to expose themselves to.
"No matter who runs out for Melbourne, I guarantee you'll have a Storm performance and hopefully a really good one."
The loss of Bromwich is a particularly untimely one given it was his off-field behaviour whilst captain of the Kiwis that will sideline him for a fortnight and not a physical ailment, the man recognised widely as the No.1 prop in the game playing in excess of 50 minutes in each of his past four outings.
Bromwich has been averaging 113 metres per game this season to be level with McLean amongst the Storm big men with Glasby next best with 90m per game.
Where Melbourne may suffer is on their bench with Asofa-Solomona putting games in a headlock when he has come on in recent weeks, his 10 offloads the most of any Storm forward and his massive frame barrelling a path through opposition defences.
With the exception of fellow Kiwi transgressor Kevin Proctor the Titans are almost at full strength but coach Neil Henry doesn't believe his side can claim any edge in personnel against the competition leaders.
"They (Bromwich and Asofa-Solomona) have got a bit of strike and certainly Bromwich has got big minutes in him but we're without Kevvie as well. It tends to cancel each other out a little bit," Henry said.
"Both sides have lost a couple of key personnel and they've had a couple of injuries so their depth is being tested but Craig [Bellamy] runs a club there where the players that tend to step up get the job done as well and we're expecting the same from our guys.
"One to 17 we need to be very good. We need to be competing for everything for 80 minutes.
"They're playing a game where they're moving the ball around a bit more than traditionally they have so we've got to expect that it's going to be an entertaining game and we have to match it defensively."