Storm tweak preliminary preparations
Melbourne lock Dale Finucane admits the Storm have changed part of their preparation leading into Friday night's preliminary final against the Broncos in a bid to avoid a repeat of last year's result in the decider.
Expectation remains high for Craig Bellamy's side to bounce back from heartbreak last season and send halfback Cooper Cronk out a premiership winner in his final games as a Melbourne player.
Despite breezing through the regular season, the Storm were made to work for their two-point win against the Eels a fortnight ago in their qualifying final – a trend the side became accustomed to in 2016.
Melbourne got through to last year's NRL grand final on the back of two wins by six points or less, including a thrilling two-point victory in the preliminary final against the Raiders.
That victory proved to be their final one of the year though with a gruelling finals series coming to an end against the Sharks in the most important game of the year.
"In terms of preparation we've tweaked a few little things compared to last year in regards to our training loads between our first final and the prelim game, but not too much else," Finucane said.
"I don't personally draw too much motivation from the game last year because it's a new competition now."
Finucane brushed off the expectation from outside of the club despite many experts declaring it is the Storms' title to lose.
"The expectation that it's just going to happen is a bit farfetched," he said.
"The calibre of teams still in this competition is really high. Every team that is still in the competition is in with a shot of making a grand final."
And the former Bulldog is right.
All four clubs remaining in the Telstra Premiership have been a part of a grand final in the last three seasons and boast players with enough finals experience to cause an upset.
Of the Storm side that went down to Cronulla last season, 11 players remain in this week's 17 while fullback Billy Slater makes a triumph return.
Outside backs Josh Addo-Carr and Curtis Scott will experience their first preliminary final along with Felise Kaufusi and Slade Griffin.
"We've got a lot of guys with experience at this time of the year, the most in Cam [Smith], Cooper and Billy," Finucane said.
"A lot of younger guys will be looking to them for advice on what to do this week."
Finucane said the side would train expecting Broncos captain Darius Boyd to return from a hamstring injury after the fullback was named on Tuesday.
Fill-in custodian Kodi Nikorima had a shaky start under the high ball in Brisbane's win over the Panthers in Boyd's absence.
"We'll prepare that [he'll play]," Finucane said.
"If he's not there I'm sure the coaching staff will go over the players in that position anyway."