Melbourne halfback Cooper Cronk says the Storm embrace the challenge of playing their best football for a month after missing out on a top four spot.
Cooper Cronk says Melbourne are embracing an “all on the line” mentality as they face the unusual prospect of a month of do-or-die NRL competition.
Barring the 2010 season when they picked up no points due to salary cap infractions, Melbourne hadn’t finished outside the top four since 2005 – until this season.
So it will be a rare experience for the sixth-placed Storm when they meet seventh-placed Canterbury in an elimination final at AAMI Park on Sunday.
However, halfback Cronk said on Monday the Storm took a lot of confidence from their past two months, in which they won six out of eight games.
The only team to win the NRL competition from outside the top four since it switched to a top eight format were the Bulldogs, who did it from sixth back in 1995.
“It’s definitely a challenge. I’m not shying away from it,” Cronk said.
“There’s no doubt that it makes it more difficult – that’s the idea of playing consistent football and finishing in the top four.
“For 20 weeks of the season we were pretty inconsistent. Our last eight weeks has been pretty good.
“We’ve given ourselves an opportunity. We know our best football is up there with the best.
“Can we do it for a month? That’s the challenge.”
Cronk rated captain Cameron Smith a 50-50 chance of playing against the Bulldogs as he races to be fit after the ankle sprain suffered last week.
He felt the fact the game wasn’t till Sunday would help.
“It’s a concern, there’s no doubt about that, I’m not sugar-coating it,” Cronk said.
“I think he (Smith) is thereabouts. He’s passionate for the club like no other player, so he’ll do everything possible.
“We’ve got a super-good medical department. The plus thing for us is that he finished the game on Friday night. The negative is he was on crutches on Saturday morning.”
The Bulldogs hammered the Storm 40-12 in Perth in the wake of the Alex McKinnon injury but just shaded them 6-4 in Melbourne and Cronk called them a “red hot challenge”.
“There’s no doubt they play a very confrontational game straight up the middle third of the field, their front rowers generate a lot of ball plays for them,” Cronk said.
“We need to treat them as if they are a half or a five-eighth.
” (They also have) dangerous halves.”