Melbourne Storm ready for tough start to season
Melbourne relish the challenge presented by a brutal schedule to start their NRL title defence, says skipper Cameron Smith.
Just back from the successful World Club Challenge campaign in England which disrupted their pre-season, the premiers must now prepare themselves to play their first three competition matches within the space of just 12 days.
After opening against St George Illawarra at home on Sunday, March 10, they travel to Townsville to play the Cowboys six days later, then have just five days turnaround before a Thursday home clash with their 2012 grand final foes, Canterbury.
"We're up for it," said Smith on Wednesday. "We're pretty keen for that challenge.
"The coaches and medical staff have had plans for a long time on what we need to do when we get back (from England) to be ready for those matches because we've got a pretty tough start."
The Storm took out the WCC title when they defeated Super League champions Leeds 18-14 last weekend and while Smith said the club was proud of the victory he admitted it wasn't an ideal way to gear up for the NRL season.
"In some senses it's always a disruption, travelling over to England before the start of your season," Smith said.
"It cuts your pre-season short and ideally you'd like to be in Australia playing against some NRL sides before you start the competition.
"But our club fully embraces the World Club Challenge and we really enjoyed going over there for two weeks and obviously coming back with the trophy."
Smith said the WCC presented a great challenge which made winning it more rewarding for a team which was introducing several new members following off-season player movement.
"It's particularly tough given the time of the year for the Australians," he said.
"Everything is against you - the conditions that you go into and the (Storm) team that played on Friday night hadn't played together," he said.
"There were a couple of us away at the All Star game, (who missed the club's NRL trial game against Canberra), and Cooper Cronk was playing his first match of the year.
"It was pretty hard to get some sort of rhythm with the team, but that's why we went over there fairly early.
"We went 10 or 11 days before the match and we had some really good training sessions and the preparation was spot on," Smith said.
He said the team's defence was the most pleasing part of the performance.
"That's what (coach) Craig (Bellamy) was pretty disgusted with in the trial against Canberra so they way we turned that around and trained all week was great."