The NSW Blues have been named for the first game of the 2017 #Origin series.
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Melbourne halfback Matt Orford admits the Storm will be hard pressed to maintain its recent good form when it meets the Brett Kimmorley-led Sharks at Cronulla on Saturday night.
Orford believes Kimmorley?s return from an 11-week layoff due to injury, simply strengthens an already formidable Sharks line-up, but he concedes Melbourne would be foolish to focus solely on the former Storm premiership winner.
?With ?Noddy? (Kimmorley) coming back into the side it?s going to be a huge boost for them and I?m sure they?ll want to finish the season on a high while ending any momentum we?ve built up recently,? Orford said.
?Obviously we have a bit of an idea of how he plays but you can?t get too tied up with worrying about one player, there?s 17 guys in the other side that we?ve got to be prepared for.
?It?s always going to be hard playing Cronulla no matter who they?ve got in their side, particularly when it?s at their home ground.?
While Kimmorley has not played since Round 13 due to an ongoing hamstring injury, Orford has helped the Storm to two strong wins over the Raiders a fortnight ago and then the Bulldogs last week.
But Orford, who was selected as Kimmorley?s replacement for the NSW State of Origin side earlier this year only to withdraw himself due to injury, is quick to point out Kimmorley?s credentials as one of the NRL?s premier halfbacks. ?He?s a quality player and while there?s a chance he might be slightly underdone match fitness-wise, we know just how dangerous he can be, so we?ll have to try and starve him of the ball,? Orford added.
?Going up against an excellent halfback is always tough and even though you?re playing against him, you?re always picking up little things that can improve your own game.?
The clash with Melbourne will be one of the last chances the ninth-placed Sharks have of keeping their season alive, whereas the Storm is aiming to build on its consistency ahead of the upcoming finals series.
?We?ve got to go into this game treating it as a must-win, as I?m sure they will be. We?re on a bit of a roll at the moment and it would be great to keep that going heading into the finals,? Orford explained.
?Not only do we have to prove that we can be a consistent side but we also need to keep up the confidence that we?ve taken out of the last two weeks. We certainly don?t want to lose that now, coming into such an important time of the season.?
Cronulla are one of just three teams in the NRL to have beaten the Storm at home this season ? a 10-point win in Round 9 - but the Storm?s 3-3 record at Toyota Park suggests the visitors won?t be overawed by a visit to the Shire.
The last time Melbourne travelled to Cronulla (Round 1, 2003) the Storm pulled off a miraculous come-from-behind win in the final seconds of the match.
?We were pretty lucky to get away with the two points in that match last year but hopefully it won?t come down to that again this week,? Orford said.
?Hopefully we can put in a bit more of a convincing performance than the last time - they also got us in Melbourne earlier this year so we probably owe them one.?
An injury cloud still hangs over Storm forward Kirk Reynoldson as he battles to overcome a calf injury in time for Saturday night?s clash. Reynoldson missed two weeks with a torn calf muscle before returning to the Melbourne side for last week?s win over the Bulldogs.
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James Avery: Phone (03) 9421 3222 Mobile: 0411 623 024 [email protected]