Melbourne Storm skipper Stephen Kearney believes the New Zealand Warriors have pinpointed this Saturday?s National Rugby League clash at Ericsson Stadium as a must win before embarking on a torrid run home to the finals.
Having spent last week in camp with the New Zealand national team alongside several of the Warriors? key personnel ? including coach Daniel Anderson ? Kearney is well aware of the importance the home side is placing on this week?s match.
?I know for a fact that they (Warriors) are pining for this match,? Kearney explained.
?I gathered that from the way they were talking last week (in the New Zealand camp), they?re looking to try and get this game out of the way because they?ve got some tough games coming up.
?They know how tough we are, their form hasn?t been great all year and they are missing a few key players so they just see it as a key game.
?They are looking to really nail this week?s contest before they hit a tough patch of games.
The Warriors aren?t the only side with a tough road yet to come; the Storm faces a demanding month ahead with August offering a very different schedule to that of July.
Having just enjoyed three consecutive home games Melbourne will play just one match at Olympic Park over the next month and this week?s trip to Auckland is followed up with an away game to the highflying Bulldogs.
?It?s a big month for us with only one game at home so it would be nice to get August started with a good result in Auckland,? the Melbourne captain said alluding to Saturday?s clash for the Michael Moore Trophy.
?I spent four years there (Auckland) and with what the Warriors have done over the past few years it?s a great challenge to go there and play now.
?Everyone in the competition knows how hard they are to play there now, at times it?s like playing the Broncos in Brisbane.
?There?s always added incentive when we play there (Auckland), my folks and a few family members will be coming to the game but I guess the big thing is the importance of the match for us.
As a member of the Warriors? side for four years and the Kiwi national side for over 10 years ? Kearney needs only three more appearances at Test level to surpass Gary Freeman?s world record of international?s played ? the 31-year-old second-rower knows the Warriors? game better than most.
?I think we all have to be on song this week because the Warriors play an expansive game where they?ve got outside backs that do a lot of work,? Kearney added.
?With that in mind we?re going to be busy right across the park.?
As for the groin injury that has hampered his progress in recent weeks, Kearney believes he is now past the worst of it and can look forward to a strong run home to the finals.
?I?m comfortable with the situation I?m in now whereas four or five weeks ago I wasn?t too happy about it with regards to playing,? he added.
The Storm squad will train at Cornwall Park, Auckland on arrival this Friday. Media are welcome to attend the training session, which commences at 4.30pm.
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