Jeff Dickinson-Fox reviews the campaign which saw Melbourne Storm crowned premiers in 2017.
3 days ago
Australian coach Chris Anderson has told explosive prop Richard Villasanti to bottle his emotions when he faces his NZ Warriors teammates in Saturday's rugby league Test against the Kiwis at North Harbour Stadium.
Anderson wants to keep a leash on the hard-nosed prop, who is certain to be baited by the 11 Warriors in the Kiwis squad as he comes off the bench for the Test that will celebrate the centenary of trans-Tasman league rivalry.
The Australian coach said he expected the senior players, in particular captain Darren Lockyer, to have an influence on their rookie teammates.
"I've put a fair amount of responsibility on the senior blokes to do that," Anderson said.
"You just have to settle them down and make sure their minds are on the job. We don't want Villasanti to wage his own personal battle against his fellow players but just be part of the team.
"It's important for players like that. They have to go out for the team and not for their own individual glory."
Anderson will use Villasanti as a strike weapon off the bench, in a similar vein to Willie Mason, but he doesn't want the Canberra-born prop to stray from the game plan because of sledging from his opponents.
"When you play against the blokes you've played with all year he's obviously going to get baited a fair bit and if he starts reacting to those sort of baitings then it'll put him off his game," said Anderson.
"He's going to go chasing blokes where he should be doing what he should be doing for the team."
The 106kg Villasanti was under no illusions as to what awaits him on Saturday night.
"I don't doubt they'll bait me," he said. "They'll talk up a storm but when it comes down to football all the talk's soft and you have to perform.
"Chris has stressed to me that it's not a personal vendetta out there. I've got to play for my team and do my job.
"If I do that and the team does well then we'll get away with the cash."
"I'm looking forward to the challenge because they'll be trying to put a couple of shots on me and vice versa," he said.
"All in all it should make for a pretty physical and quick game."