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3 days ago
Melbourne Storm fullback Billy Slater is under no illusion as to the reception he will receive as he takes the field at Suncorp Stadium this Saturday night when the Storm opens its finals account against the Brisbane Broncos.
Slater is expecting a vastly different response to the one he received from the Queensland faithful at Suncorp Stadium earlier this year following his spectacular match-winning try for the Maroons in State of Origin II.
Saturday night?s final against the Broncos will be Slater?s first trip back to Suncorp Stadium since that try - a try that saw him collect the inaugural Peter Frilingos Memorial Award for Headline Moment of the Season at Tuesday night?s Dally M Awards.
?I think it?s going to be very different to the last time I was up there,? Slater said.
?I?m really looking forward to going up there and playing again but it?s going to be a bit different with 40,000 people against me instead of with me.
?Even though the crowd will be against us it?s still going to be a great atmosphere and that can give you a lift so hopefully we can use it to our advantage.?
Having experienced his first taste of the NRL?s post-season last year, Slater believes he?ll be better placed for the finals this time around.
?Obviously playing the Broncos in the finals is something pretty special but I think I?m more excited about going into the finals this year than I was last season,? explained Slater, who sat out the Storm?s loss to Manly last week due to an ongoing groin injury.
?I think it could make a difference to a few of the blokes in our team, there?s probably half a dozen guys that made their first finals appearance last year and this year they?ll be that little bit more experienced.?
Melbourne?s form leading into the first week of finals has been encouraging, winning three of its past four matches whereas the Broncos have recorded just one win over the past month.
But Slater believes the Broncos have enough weapons in their arsenal to swing into gear when required.
?They?ve got so many good players in their side that it doesn?t matter what sort of form they are in, they can always turn it on in the space of one game,? he added.
One man in the Storm camp that knows more about the Broncos than most is coach Craig Bellamy. After spending five years as an assistant to Brisbane coach Wayne Bennett, Bellamy believes the pressure is off the Storm to perform well.
?There?s no real pressure on us, we finished in sixth spot while they finished third,? Bellamy said.
?They?ve got all the Origin stars in their team so we?re just going up there to compete the best we can.
?I think I saw (Broncos prop) Shane Webcke say that we?ll go up there and play our hearts out and that?s what our team is about, so that?s one thing we?ll promise them.?
If the Storm is to record its first ever finals win over the Broncos it will need to overcome a tidal wave of Brisbane emotion with the home side poised to farewell their captain Gorden Tallis.
?Obviously it?s Gorden?s last game in Brisbane so there?s going to be a big crowd there and everyone will be very excited about that,? Bellamy added.
?It will be an emotional time, Gordie has been a great player for them and a great player for Queensland so they?ll be determined to play well for him in his last match up there.
?But in saying that it?s a great stadium to play at and I?m sure our guys are going to really enjoy the atmosphere there.?