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As Melbourne Storm prepares for Sunday?s showdown with the Bulldogs, coach Craig Bellamy has admitted his side needs to adopt the same hardness that has seen the Bulldogs perennial finalists in recent times.
Bellamy believes the Bulldogs, along with the Roosters, are the NRL?s yardsticks when it comes to hanging tough in the face of adversity, something the Storm is working hard to emulate.
?The Bulldogs and the Roosters ? probably the Bulldogs for a longer period of time ? have been ultra-competitive and ultra-consistent for years and years and obviously we?d like to be known as a club like that,? Bellamy explained.
?Anytime they (Bulldogs) experience some adversity it doesn?t seem to worry them on the field. They certainly have a mental toughness about them that we?d like to have in our club.?
According to Bellamy, when faced with injury ? such as Robbie Kearns? fractured eye socket this week - or Origin duty, the Storm is getting better at remaining resilient, but is still a few rungs below the likes of the Bulldogs.
?When we?ve had someone out injured or out with Origin, we?ve been really happy with how the guys coming into the side have performed,? he added.
?That seems to be one of the strengths of this club, we get an injury or we lose players through rep duties and the guys that come into the side don?t miss a beat for us.
?Touch wood we haven?t had a really big loss this year and we?re hanging in there during tough games a little better, but it?s an area we?re still trying to get better at and we?ve got a lot of work to do. Certainly we can learn from clubs like the Bulldogs.?
The Storm?s character will again be put to the test this week as it looks to snap a four-year losing streak to the Bulldogs without Kearns or the suspended Dallas Johnson.
Following an early season form slump that saw him relegated to reserve-grade, prop Rodney Howe has won a recall to the Storm?s starting side this week, in place of Kearns who is set to miss between four and six weeks.
Howe played his best game of the year against the Panthers last week clocking up 17 tackles, 17 hitups and running for over 120 metres when coming on for Kearns.
?He (Kearns) is very important to us but he misses out this week with injury so it?s a chance for Howey to go out there and start. He (Howe) played really well last week and you?d expect the same from him this week against the Bulldogs,? Bellamy said.
After overcoming a recent calf injury, Kiwi forward Glen Turner comes onto the Storm bench as Howe moves into the run-on side.
The Storm has not beaten the Bulldogs since Round 11, 2000 and suffered two heavy defeats at the hands of the Canterbury club last year, including a 30-0 drubbing in last year?s semi-final ? the first time ever the Storm has been held scoreless.
?Whether we?ve got a good record against a team or whether we?ve got a bad record, we don?t take the past into calculations at all, it?s a whole new week and different circumstances,? Bellamy said.
Their replacements last week Steve Turner and Nathan Friend have been kept on the bench in case Slater and Smith fail to back-up this Sunday. Dustin Cooper has also been added to Melbourne?s seven-man bench.
MELBOURNE STORM TEAM TO PLAY THEBULLDOGS, SUNDAY JULY 11, AT SYD SHOWGROUND (3PM):
1. Billy Slater 2. Matt Geyer 3. Steven Bell 4. Ben MacDougall 5. Matt King 6. Scott Hill 7. Matt Orford 8. Rodney Howe 9. Cameron Smith 10. Alex Chan 11. David Kidwell 12. Stephen Kearney (c) 13. Kirk Reynoldson