Melbourne halfback Cooper Cronk says their shock late-season losses were the catalyst for a push into a preliminary final against North Queensland on Saturday night.
While there didn’t appear to be any silver lining at the time, Cronk said their losses to battlers Wests Tigers (round 21) and Newcastle (round 24) turned out to be a blessing.
He said those surprise defeats rammed home what the team needed to do to reach their ambitions.
“It’s taken a few losses for our players to realise that we’re a super good team if we have 17 people contributing and we’re not so if we don’t,” Cronk said.
“Those two losses galvanised the group and to go up to Brisbane and then play the Cowboys in the last two weeks, and play the way we did, I think is a result of losing games to the Knights and West Tigers in the rounds before.”
Cronk said the Storm were full of confidence after beating the best three NRL teams in recent weeks, including minor premiers Sydney Roosters.
The Storm host the Cowboys at AAMI Park on Saturday night after beating them 14-6 at the same venue in the penultimate round.
“I take confidence in that, our last four or five weeks has been ultra-consistent and a really high level,” Cronk said.
“There’s no ceiling on what this team can achieve.”
North Queensland, with superstar playmaker Johnathan Thurston in sparkling touch, crushed Cronulla 39-0 in their semi-final.
Cronk downplayed the head-to-head battle with Thurston, saying it was a team rather than individual contest.
He was impressed by North Queensland’s start against the Sharks, grabbing a 19-0 halftime lead and said they had a point to prove.
“They were red hot; they were probably disappointed about the opportunity they let slip against Brisbane in game one of the finals and they came out of the blocks and played at a really high intensity and they threw the football around.”
While the Storm may have got the upper hand in their recent clash, Cronk said they would need to do more to secure their grand final berth against either the Sydney Roosters or Broncos, who meet in the other preliminary final.
“It does help that we beat them three weeks ago and we’ve done a bit of homework on that but they’ve done their homework as well.
“We’re going to have to be better than we were last time.”
Winger Marika Koroibete (cut leg) remains their biggest injury concern while prop Jordan McLean (knee) trained on Sunday and is confident of playing.
Koroibete, who had 12 stitches in a cut near his Achilles, said he hoped to run in their main training session on Wednesday.