Storm braces for the cauldron
Cameron Smith and Billy Slater know what will await them on Sunday in the NFL grand final. Photo: Getty Images
The Melbourne Storm may not be in the middle of a hothouse environment quite yet with the NRL grand finalist based next to the beach at Coogee, but skipper Cameron Smith believes that it will not be long before the atmosphere will soon approach something similar to a state of origin for the team.
With the Storm taking on Canterbury on Sunday, ANZ Stadium is expected to be full of Bulldogs supporters with the Storm likely to get a taste of the increased intensity when it shifts its base to Homebush on Saturday.
Smith, who has been integral to Queensland's seven consecutive origin series wins over New South Wales, said facing a hostile crowd in a big stadium was tough but his team, which includes some younger players, would not be overawed.
"I can tell you once we get out towards Homebush and we're at ANZ Stadium on Sunday I think we'll get that feeling of what it's like when you play state of origin," said Smith at today's post-NRL grand final breakfast press conference.
"It can be a very hostile environment and it takes a bit of character to get past that and worry about your own game and not to worry about what's happening in the crowd or what they're yelling out from the stands but I'm pretty confident that with the guys that we've got at the club now, we can get past that and just go out there and play our game."
The teams came together on Thursday morning for the traditional NRL grand final breakfast and Smith said it had been the Bulldogs' improved defence this season that had most impressed him and had stood out when the minor premiers beat the Storm 20-4 in Mackay in round 16.
"We had four or five sets consecutively on their line and we didn't get over and that was probably what won them the game that five- or six-minute period where they just defended their line and kicked long and got back field position," Smith said.
"It's more of an attitude than anything that they've improved. Everyone knows how to tackle, every club has got some sort of coach teaching some sort of wrestling technique but I think it's more their attitude towards defence and hanging in there when it gets a bit tough and not taking the easy option that they may have done in the past.
"This Bulldogs side now, they're a good football side, they're a well-rounded side [and] it's not all about their attack and scoring points. They can defend when they need to and minimise points scored by the opposition."
Storm coach Craig Bellamy said also pointed to the Bulldogs' offloading as a focus for his team's defence.
"They put a lot of passes together and we've got to find ways of combating that . . . and hopefully we can get that right for long periods of the game," Bellamy said.
Bellamy said he wanted to make a final decision on the players carrying injuries, such as winger Sisa Waqa, at Thursday's training session but "if it's touch and go we'll give them to Saturday".
Meanwhile, Bulldogs captain Michael Ennis again paid tribute to the transformation that coach Des Hasler has managed with the team in his first season at the club.
"We always had confidence in the roster we had, it's just that we needed that little bit of structure and confidence and Des provides that," Ennis said.
"He comes with a wealth of experience but it's his work ethic that has been infectious on all of us, I've said that all year.
"As a group of players we are very fortunate to have him at our club and everyone has thoroughly enjoyed our time under him although it hasn't been that long."