Slater says Storm have plenty of time left to hit their peak
Billy Slater says the Storm are right where they want to be but it's crunch time now as they look to consolidate top spot going into the final six rounds of the Telstra Premiership.
Melbourne are fighting for the minor premiership with the Dragons, Rabbitohs, Roosters and Sharks, who are all within two points of each other.
Craig Bellamy's side is aiming for an eighth consecutive win with their full first-choice playing squad available for Saturday's clash with Canberra at AAMI Park.
The Storm led the competition heading into round 19 last year and won their next 10 games en route to the title.
"It's a great opportunity to have, but you need to have the process in place and be playing good at the right time of the year," Slater said on the prospect of going back-to-back.
"You need a good advantage on the ladder position. So, a lot of things have got to fall your way.
"It's hard to compare seasons and squads. We've got a different squad this year, but we're just focused not only on ladder position but also playing good football.
"We're six weeks out from the finals now and we really need to start building on our performances."
Melbourne have ground out ugly wins over the Warriors (12-6), Sea Eagles (14-13) and Roosters (9-8) in recent weeks. Slater said the hard-nosed effort required to maintain their winning run was sustainable heading into the business end of the year.
"I'd much rather play this style of football and have a lot to improve on than being up and down, blowing teams away and getting beaten," he said.
"It just shows you we're consistent with our effort. There are still things we can improve on with the footy. But the Warriors played a really defensive game last weekend and made it hard for us to score points and make line breaks."
There's plenty of competition for backline spots as the Storm's young players have impressed during the Origin period.
"We've had guys come through in the past like Cameron Munster, Brodie Croft, young Brandon Smith. The club's in good hands and are doing a great job with recruitment, and bringing these young guys in and turning them into consistent first-grade footballers," Slater said.
Slater also vowed that a Storm premiership "is not going to determine whether I go on next year".