Melbourne Storm veterans Bryan Norrie and Ryan Hinchcliffe were given a look at the sharp-end of a Shark at Melbourne Aquarium on Thursday.
But they hope it will be the most intimidation they experience this week as the Storm prepares to host bottom-side Cronulla Sharks at AAMI Park on Saturday.
Norrie and Hinchcliffe sported diving gear and the Storm’s special Indigenous-themed playing strip to promote the game and the NRL’s Close the Gap round in which teams and players will push the need to improve the health and life expectancy of indigenous Australians.
The Storm is fighting to keep its spot in the top-eight with its last-start loss to Newcastle leaving it stuck in a finals-feeding frenzy with five other sides, all of whom sit from fifth to ninth place and tied on 26 points. The 10th-placed Brisbane Broncos are on 24 points with four matches left in the season.
In short, if the Storm slips up against the injury-hit Sharks, it could end up outside the top eight with no clear path back in.
The Storm has made only one change with prop Jordan McLean returning after missing last week due to hamstring tightness. Prop Junior Moors is on the team list as an emergency.
Storm assistant coach Justin Morgan said the side had to focus on playing its best defence for the whole 80 minutes, as the Sharks were fielding several young, speedy players who won’t be familiar to his side.
“You look at a guy like Valentine Holmes on the wing. He is express isn’t he, he is quick,” Morgan said. “He is very good on his feet and we will need to keep an eye on him.”
Morgan added that the Storm faced the pressure of winning a finals berth while the young Sharks could play with no fear.
“One thing they will have going for them is that there is a release of pressure on them, dare I say a relaxed attitude to playing. There is not the pressure on them that other teams may have,” he said.
The game will be the Storm’s second-last home match of the season.