Storm's Hoffman hopeful of facing Sharks

Melbourne back-rower Ryan Hoffman is "working around the clock" to ensure he's fit for this weekend's NRL clash with Cronulla at Olympic Park.

It was initially feared Hoffman had suffered rib cartilage damage in Monday night's 32-18 win against New Zealand Warriors on Monday night and would be out of action for an extended period.

But scans have showed only bruising to the rib cage, meaning he could be OK to play against the Sharks on Sunday.

"It's getting better, fingers crossed," the Australian and NSW forward said.

"I'm really trying to stay positive and I'm doing everything right to play this weekend.

"I've been getting intense physio and icing up. I'm working around the clock to be ready for the game."

Hoffman was stung in a crunching tackle from Warriors captain Steve Price and left the field in the 17th minute at Telstra Dome.

He is one of the most durable forwards in the competition, having appeared in 96 out of a possible 107 games for Melbourne over the past three seasons.

The Storm are already missing injured stars Michael Crocker and Greg Inglis but Sika Manu, Sam Tagataese and Jeff Lima have stepped up to admirably fill the void for the premiers.

"They've been outstanding in our first couple of games, particularly on the weekend and the one before that in Leeds (the World Club Challenge)," halfback Cooper Cronk said.

"All those boys have trained the house down.

"They're comfortable with their surroundings and they know their role each week.

"They're very confident in what they can do and that's a good thing.

"They'll be very important during the start, the middle and the end of our season so hopefully they can play some consistent footy."

The Storm were delighted with the 20,084 spectators who traipsed to Telstra Dome, recording the sixth-highest crowd figures for Monday night football since it was introduced last year.

It also represented the third-largest crowd of any home game during the regular season in the club's history.

With the AFL season starting on Thursday, the Storm will struggle to sell out Olympic Park on Sunday but seeing teenage sensation Israel Folau in full stride could be worth the admission price alone following his welcome return to form against the Warriors.

Clearly distracted by the attention surrounding negotiations over his future, the 18-year-old struggled in the pre-season but has now shaken off the rust.

"A guy of his immense talent is always going to be a danger to any side so the more times we can get the ball in his hands, the better it'll be for us," said Cronk.

Storm captain Cameron Smith will be free to play against the Sharks - coming off an impressive win over Manly - after pleading guilty to a grapple tackle on Warriors centre Brent Tate.

"That's probably one of the hardest games to play away from home - Manly at Brookvale on a Saturday night," Cronk said.

"The Sharks have got talent across the board and they've got some big boppers up front.

"They're a good side with plenty of skill, plenty of ability and plenty of toughness too."

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