Date: August 04 2012
PENRITH forward Clint Newton has insisted that there has not been, and would not be, any use of the words ''form slump'' in relation to Melbourne Storm ahead of their clash at AAMI Park today.
Storm is in the middle of its worse run in a decade on the back of six losses in seven games, including the past five in a row. The one-time premiership favourite, which earlier this season held a three-win lead over its nearest rival, has dropped to third and is now in a battle to retain a top-four spot.
But Newton, who played part of the 2007 season with the Storm after he left Newcastle, said the Panthers had not allowed themselves to even contemplate looking at today's clash as the best chance it has had of overcoming the Storm.
Penrith languishes in 15th spot but it has won its past two games against Cronulla and the Sydney Roosters.
''They say Melbourne's in a form slump but realistically it's not a great surprise if any team loses a few in a row,'' Newton said.
''It's not a reflection of how they're going, it's more of a reflection of how tight the competition is and you can be off by 10 per cent and get beat. I've still got a tremendous amount of respect for that side and what they're about, and obviously their coach [Craig Bellamy].''
Newton said Penrith had slowly come to grips with the philosophies of coach Ivan Cleary, who is in his first year at the club after leaving the New Zealand Warriors.
''I think the biggest thing with us is coming to the realisation that we could compete with teams and we didn't just have to compete with them, we could win games,'' he said.
''Obviously this team has gone through a reasonable amount of change within the last 12 months, so I wouldn't say we're overconfident, I just think we're starting to get some results that we have been working towards.''
Meanwhile, Storm veteran Anthony Quinn said he expected a rejuvenated Storm outfit with their halves, Cooper Cronk and Gareth Widdop, back together.
Melbourne will field the combination of Cronk at half-back and five-eighth Widdop for the first time since mid-June, the pairing having been split when Widdop was moved to full-back to cover the loss of Billy Slater, who was injured in the second state of origin.
Widdop was rested last round when Slater returned for the Storm's 26-18 loss to St George Illawarra.
''The last couple of weeks, with Cooper being the dominant half, a few of the teams shut down Coops fairly well,'' Quinn said. ''But with the main half combination back, we've got options both sides and Bill [Slater] can pop up anywhere as well. It certainly helps with the team structure, which hopefully will help with our performance.''
But Quinn said the team would resist the temptation to target Penrith's rookie five-eighth Lachlan Coote, who will be playing only his third game in the No. 6 jersey.
''Lachlan Coote's a quality player and I think anywhere he plays he's going to perform well, so I don't think that's a weakness for Penrith,'' he said.
''I don't think that's a spot that we could exploit at all because he's definitely a strong defender.''
Dane Nielsen has been dropped and will be replaced by Justin O'Neill, who is returning from a groin injury.
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