Storm wary of red-hot Raiders

Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy says next-up opponents Canberra Raiders are the most difficult NRL opponents they could hope to meet this round.

And he’s warned his side that without stark improvement from their last-out showing to South Sydney, the Storm will be blown out of the water.

The Storm’s intimidating run-in to the finals continues on Monday night in the nation’s capital and Bellamy is aware of the challenge awaiting his ladder leaders.

“There’s a lot of dangerous teams in the competition but on form (they’re the most dangerous), without a doubt,” he said.

“We all have our ups and downs. They’re having a real up at the moment.

“Right at this moment they’re the team to play.”

Melbourne’s last month features an intimidating set of fixtures but Bellamy wouldn’t have it any other way.

After the Raiders is another away-day against rivals Manly, before the Storm close out the regular season at home to sixth-placed Brisbane and Cronulla in a blockbuster first-versus-second clash.

The easiest match of their final month was supposed to be last week, but Melbourne needed a golden point to beat the third-last Rabbitohs at home.

Bellamy said on the basis of that showing, vast improvement was needed to even be competitive against Canberra.

“If we defend like that again this week, we’ll get steamrolled,” he said.

“They’ve got a lot of strong structures and dangerous guys with the footy. Big strong guys that can run the footy.

“You need to defend really well against these guys.”

The Raiders will put five-eighth Blake Austin through a fitness test for the match, but is expected to get up for the contest.

The Storm aren’t without their own injury concerns.

Bellamy appeared to rule out prop Jordan McLean, saying “he won’t be back this week”, before leaving the door slightly open for a return from a long-term ankle injury.

“He’s going okay. You get reports every week. Hopefully he’ll be back soon … but at this stage he won’t be playing this week,” he said.

If the Storm are short of inspiration against Canberra they could always lean on their wingers Suliasi Vunivalu and Marika Koroibete.

Bellamy said the Fijian pair were celebrating their country’s first Olympic gold medal in the Rugby Sevens on Friday morning (AEST).

“There’s a real smile on their faces,” Bellamy said.

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