Buhrer expects Smith and Slater to respond to pressure

Buhrer expects Smith and Slater to respond to pressure

Newcastle co-captain Jamie Buhrer believes there is mounting pressure building up on Melbourne stars Cameron Smith and Billy Slater to perform weekly in the Telstra Premiership.

The premiers lost Cooper Cronk in the off-season to the Roosters and have reshuffled their halves combinations, with Cameron Munster and Ryley Jacks named for the round six fixture on Friday night.

"I don't think it's external (pressure), but they probably, being the players that they are, with all their experience, they'd be encouraged to take a lot more of the load off the halves," Buhrer said. 

"We've seen this year, even though he has always been the main controller of their team, Cameron Smith has taken even more of an (active) approach with the ball - he's doing a lot of ball playing around the line, even more so than in past years.

"With that we are going to have to concentrate more on Cameron and shut him down, and put more pressure back on the halves to do more of the work."

The fact the Storm are coming off back-to-back losses would make Newcastle's task even tougher, according to Buhrer.

"They are going to incredibly desperate outfit, and with Cameron and Billy and a number of other stars, they are certainly going to be a handful," Buhrer said.

"It will make things hard for us, but we just have to make sure we are completing well and we are still in there at the 80th minute. The three games that we have won this year, we have completed around 85 per cent, and we have applied ourselves and shown intent in defence."

Herman Ese'ese has been given the responsibility of replacing Mitchell Barnett at lock, who has been suspended for a dangerous throw.

"I guess playing lock is the same role as playing prop," he said.

"Same role and same job, so I just have got to go out there and do my job and hopefully do it well.

"They've got a pretty mobile pack with (Jesse) Bromwich and (Nelson) Asofa-Solomona up front, and they have been doing a good job. Bromwich was someone who I looked up to as a kid, and tried to base my game around, so it will be good to come up against him."

Ese'ese conceded it was unusual to see Melbourne sitting in the bottom half of the standings after five rounds.

"It's pretty surreal, they are one of the top teams and they are always in the top four somewhere in the opening rounds," Ese'ese said.

"So to see them outside the eight is weird, but we can't let that get to us, because they always perform at home."