Myles' timely Storm debut
New Melbourne Storm acquisition Nate Myles already has opportunity to show his veteran value as leader of a younger side that takes on the eighth-placed Parramatta Eels on Saturday night.
Myles will be a timely addition during a pivotal period for the league-leaders, who enjoy a four-point buffer atop the ladder after putting the rest of the NRL on notice with a 42-12 thrashing of the Brisbane Broncos last round.
"[Nate] brings a lot to the team," coach Craig Bellamy said. "He brings a lot of experience and he’s a resilient, tough footy player that can play long minutes.
"He’ll be a good leader for our younger forwards as well."
While the younger Storm side has more than held their own without their representative stars available during this year’s State of Origin series, Myles will provide a soothing presence.
Despite six of Melbourne’s regulars away with Origin duties, Bellamy has full faith his inexperienced troops – including Brodie Croft, Ryley Jacks, Curtis Scott, Jahrome Hughes and Slade Griffin – can stand up once again.
"These guys have done a great job during Origin," Bellamy said. "They’ve had more games than usual during Origin this year. They’ve handled it really well. We just need to put in the effort we have put in [so far] during Origin tomorrow night."
While it’s opportune for Parramatta to face the Storm without key players Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk, Billy Slater, Will Chambers, Tim Glasby and Cameron Munster available, there are many expecting Melbourne to rise to the occasion again after impressive performances against the North Queensland Cowboys and Sydney Roosters in recent rounds that went into extra time.
However, Bellamy isn’t placing any expectations on his side.
"[It’s] especially [coming] from media and the fans; I’m not going to put any pressure on them because they’re only kids," Bellamy said. "They’ve only played, not even, a handful of NRL games.
"We had rough finishes in both of them (against the Cowboys and Roosters). We got lucky in one (beating North Queensland 23-22) and unlucky in the other (losing 25-24 to the Roosters). I’d like to think our young blokes learnt a lot from both those games. Hopefully we’re better for it.
"Having said that, our first 70 minutes in both games were outstanding. We’d like to replicate that again this week and try to finish off the game more strongly.
"I couldn’t be critical of anyone’s efforts without the guys during Origin. As long as they turn up and put the effort in tomorrow night, I’ll be happy."
The Eels are riding a wave of momentum, winning four of their past five matches to consolidate a top-eight spot with four points between them and ninth-place.
"They’re getting really close to where Brad (coach Brad Arthur) would like them to be and it will be a good challenge [for us]," Bellamy said. "Parramatta have really made some ground in the past few weeks, especially in that Origin period."
The blue-and-gold have won consecutive matches, escaping with a 13-12 extra-time win over the Canterbury Bulldogs last week following a strong 24-10 victory over the St. George-Illawarra Dragons.
Worryingly for Eels fans, their record at AAMI Park isn’t favourable with a combined for-and-against of 50-170 in four games since 2011. However, the last time they played at AAMI Park in Round 14, 2015 in similar circumstances with many of Melbourne’s Origin stars unavailable, Parramatta clinched a 26-22 victory.
The Storm know they need to be focused on Saturday’s clash at home but may receive a further boost in morale – and bulk – after signing big forward Sam Kasiano away from the Bulldogs for 2018 and re-signing promising young prop Nelson Asofa-Solomona for two more seasons.
"It certainly adds a bit of size," Bellamy said. "We still think there’s a lot of upside in Nelson. He’s a big human and very mobile; we forget he’s only 21.
"Hopefully we can do the same with Sam. He’s got some traits we really like.
"At the end of the day we’ve signed him for a reason and that’s to mainly do what he’s doing at the moment."