Melbourne Storm veteran Ryan Hoffman says shutting down in-form Penrith halves Peter Wallace and Jamie Soward will be key in their NRL clash at AAMI Park.
Ryan Hoffman says the Melbourne Storm are wary of new Penrith halves duo Jamie Soward and Peter Wallace who are playing like they have a point to prove.
The unbeaten teams clash in round two at AAMI Park on Saturday afternoon, which is the Storm’s first home game of the season.
Test halfback Cooper Cronk will also play his first game of the year since recovering from shoulder surgery.
The Panthers haven’t won in Melbourne since 2005 but showed they have shed the easy-beat tag with a blistering second half to roll Newcastle 30-8 last round.
Former Dragons five-eighth Soward and Broncos halfback Wallace were stand-outs in that win in their first NRL games since leaving their previous teams under acrimonious circumstances.
Soward quit St George Illawarra mid-season after falling out with coach Steve Price while Wallace finished up after the worst NRL season in Brisbane’s history.
Veteran Storm backrower Hoffman said the Panthers looked in great shape.
“They were fantastic last week,” Hoffman said.
“I think their halves in Soward and Wallace; they’ve got points to prove themselves and they certainly did that on the weekend.”
He said the Storm intended putting plenty of pressure on Soward, whose creative kicking game was key.
“It’s a great strength of his so we have to work very hard with a marker putting pressure on him because if you give a player like him a lot of time to pin-point his kicks it’s going to make very hard for Bill (Slater).”
Hoffman rated the Panthers forward pack and said stopping it was the Storm’s first priority.
“We base all our games on defence and if we’re playing a team that has a good, quality pack with players like (Brent) Kite, (Sam), McKendry, (Adam) Docker and (Nigel) Plum, we must stop their go-forward because Wallace and Soward just play off the back of that and they’ve got too much skill out wide to not capitalise on that,” Hoffman said.
Storm and Test skipper Cameron Smith, who this week re-signed with the club for another four years, will become the club’s most capped player with 263 appearances while Kangaroos fullback Billy Slater lines up for his 250th match in purple.
Hoffman said the best way the team could celebrate the milestones was to play well.
“It’s a big day for the club so the best way we can pay tribute to them is doing our best for the Melbourne Storm and if we can do that the result should look after itself,” he said.