Coming off a brutal pre-season, the Melbourne Storm see their opening clash with Manly as an ideal way to gauge their form and fitness.
Melbourne see a first round battle with NRL arch-rivals Manly at Brookvale as the ideal way to gauge the benefits of their brutal pre-season when the teams meet on Friday night.
Storm centre Will Chambers insists bad blood seen between the teams in the past – famously illustrated in the 2011 Battle of Brookvale – is no longer.
“It’s like mutual respect more than any rivalry,” says Chambers.
But he has welcomed the first round clash as a great test of the old school pre-season training ordered by coach Craig Bellamy after the Storm’s early exit from last year’s finals.
“It’s going to be tough, they’re a great side and they’re battled-hardened,” said Chambers.
“You know what you’re going to get from Manly; they’re going to turn up and be physical and the crowd’s going to get behind them.
“It’s a good benchmark to see where we’re at and how our pre-season’s gone.”
Chambers, who finished only behind Billy Slater in the Storm’s try-scoring tally last season, is ear-marked for an Queensland State of Origin debut with injured veteran Justin Hodges unlikely to be fit for game one.
Chambers said he was only thinking about getting the Storm off to a strong start.
His value in the backline rose even further in the last two weeks with Matt Duffie ruled out for the season due to a knee reconstruction and then fellow winger Justin O’Neill sidelined for up to eight weeks also with knee trouble.
The 25-year-old, who was recently promoted to the leadership group, said the injuries meant opportunities for newcomers to make their mark.
“There’s Young (Tonumaipea), Richie Kennar, Mahe (Fonua), Travis Robinson, who’s coming back from a knee.
“There’s a few good kids and they get an opportunity now and so it’s up to them if they take it.”
Chambers said that Test halfback Cooper Cronk, who had off-season shoulder surgery, needed to pass a few final tests to get the green light to play.
“He’s done skills with us the the last few weeks and he’s just got to tick a couple of boxes on the defensive side of things so we’ve just got to wait and see there.”