Ghosts of past don't scare Melbourne Storm

BEN STANLEY
Last updated 05:00 28/07/2013
Craig Bellamy
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IMPRESSIVE RECORD: Storm coach Craig Bellamy.

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They're one of those teams. It's one of those games. Melbourne this weekend? You little beauty. We'll knock them off, again.

It's a perception that has spread from the stands to the media alike: the Warriors are the Storm's bogey team.

And while the historical ledger is still tipped in the Storm's favour, it's certainly a pretty fair statement.

Before their clash at Mt Smart Stadium today, the Warriors and Storm have faced off 32 times - Melbourne snaring 17 victories, losing 13 and drawing 2. That's a winning percentage of 53.1 for the Storm - which is obviously still a losing record for the Warriors - but it's impressive when you mark it up against other NRL teams.

The Storm's other bogey team are the Bulldogs.

With their 39-0 defeat to the blue-and-white Army in Sydney last weekend, the Storm slipped to 48.4 per cent of games won against the Bulldogs, their only losing record against another club in the NRL.

Still, that Warriors record is an impressive one.

But why? Insert the mythology of the free-running, free-thinking, unpredictable Warriors' sides of the past.

That seems to be a likely cliche: that Storm sides, bedded in Craig Bellamy's rigid but successful coaching structures, would struggle to deal with a footy team that could attack you from anywhere on the paddock.

Sometimes likely cliches are good ones - but veteran Warriors hooker Nathan Friend, who played for the Storm between 2003 and 2006, reckons they are good ones. After all, who can defend against great offloads, and clever second-phase footy?

"The Warriors were, and obviously still are, a potent attacking team," Friend said. "When I was in Melbourne, they seemed to get us with the offloads.

"That second-phase play was really good too. They seemed to find the extremities of the field, when they had an offload, and that really hurt our structure back in the day. Their go-forward in the middle was very hard to contain.

"We'd only seem to get the ball very close to our tryline and our strike weapons wouldn't have the chance to attack, in yardage, as much as they would like to with good ball up the field. They were the big reasons when I was there."

Think of those Warriors' defeats of the Storm and you remember big games. That first versus eighth playoff in 2008 and Michael Witt's famed last-second try.

That fantastic performance in Melbourne in 2011, when the Warriors turned in one of their great performances to reach their second grand final.

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Former Storm backrower Todd Lowrie, who like Friend now plies his trade at Mt Smart Stadium, believes the idea of the Warriors being a banana-skin team was founded on those big-game defeats.

"I actually found out this week that the Warriors don't have as good a record against the Storm as everybody thinks they do," he said.

"Everyone remembers those big games, and one or two Anzac Day clashes over the years the Warriors have won as well. But everyone just remembers those ones and doesn't actually look at the record.

"[But] it's certainly a game that anyone in the NRL looks at and dreads - that one with their team name next to the Warriors. There is a bit of a hangover from those big-game losses."

Ask Lowrie about that 2011 game and a wry smile creeps across his face.

The ghost of Shaun Johnson turning Kevin Proctor inside out on the way to creating that sublime Lewis Brown try is still there, somewhere. Now that he's on the other side, he doesn't mind a little bit of that Warriors' magic going his way instead.

"Once all the emotion was out of it [in 2011], we just knew, in ourselves, that the Warriors were a better side," he said.

"We knew there wasn't too much we could have done on that day that could have won the game. They just played one of the best games in their club's history and got the better of us.

"I'm just thinking about Sunday. Another win would be nice."

- Sunday Star Times

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