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Melbourne Storm coach Craig Bellamy has today named a full-strength side for Sunday?s clash with Manly, despite being faced with the opportunity to rest several key players ahead of next week?s finals.
Bellamy today named an unchanged line-up from the side that beat the Sharks last week, but the team that runs out on Sunday against the Sea Eagles could vary depending on Friday night?s match between Brisbane and Penrith.
If the Broncos beat the Panthers in Penrith, the sixth-placed Storm could move up to fifth position on the NRL ladder, provided Melbourne accounts for Manly two days later. The Storm also stands a chance of snatching fourth place if it can crush the Sea Eagles by 41 points or more.
With the Storm guaranteed a finish no lower than sixth, a move up the ladder could be extremely beneficial come the first week of the finals ? a fourth-placed finish would even ensure Melbourne a home final.
But if an under-manned Brisbane side fails to knock-off the Panthers, Bellamy will be tempted to use Sunday?s match at Brookvale Oval as a chance to rest several key players suffering from injury, in the lead up to the finals.
But despite the chance of claiming a top-four finish, Bellamy is reluctant to place his faith in other results falling the Storm?s way.
?We can?t control the outcome of Friday night?s match and we don?t have any input into that,? Bellamy said.
?Obviously we?ll be interested in the result but at the end of the day that game is on Friday night and we play two days after that, so if we put our week on hold until Friday night we won?t be well prepared on Sunday.
?We?ll just train with the team we?ve picked and play with the team we?ve picked as much as we can depending on injuries.
?I don?t think there?s much chance of finishing fourth, there would be longer odds for that not happening than there is for it happening.
?If you start worrying about those things all week then you don?t do the work that you should and you don?t concentrate on the things that you should. All we?ve got to concentrate on is getting the team ready for Sunday?s game against Manly which is going to be a tough match.?
Bellamy has named Robbie Kearns (foot), Stephen Kearney (hamstring), Billy Slater (groin) and Matt Orford (shoulder) this week but conceded all would benefit from a week off ahead of the finals.
Slater?s chances of sitting out the final round of the regular season suffered a blow today after back-up fullback Steve Turner re-aggravated a knee injury at training.
?It would be nice to give a couple of guys a rest but we haven?t got too many players, particularly in the backs, that we can afford to rest at the moment,? Bellamy added.
?It would be nice to give Billy a rest but Steve Turner has hurt himself so we?re a bit restricted, the other thing is Brisbane Norths are playing in a final this weekend and we don?t want to dig into their reserves too much.?
As for the scenario of having to beat Manly by 41 points this week, Bellamy prefers to focus on the match itself rather than the prospect of a blowout scoreline.
?Winning by 40 points will be the last thing on our minds, we?re not thinking winning about winning or losing, we?re just worried about preparing the best we can and playing the best we can,? Bellamy explained.
?If we start thinking about winning by 40 points we?ll get beaten by 40 points.?
Kirk Reynoldson is again a notable omission from the Storm this week. The bearded forward has been struggling to overcome a calf injury after missing last week?s match against Cronulla.
MELBOURNE STORM TEAM TO PLAY THE MANLY SEA EAGLES, SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 5, AT BROOKVALE OVAL (2.30PM):
1. Billy Slater 2. Matt Geyer 3. Steven Bell 4. Ben MacDougall 5. Matt King 6. Scott Hill 7. Matt Orford 8. Robbie Kearns 9. Cameron Smith 10. Rodney Howe 11. David Kidwell 12. Stephen Kearney (c) 13. Dallas Johnson