Melbourne skipper Cameron Smith expects no shortage of niggle as he prepares to battle Cronulla counterpart Michael Ennis for possibly the last time.
Ennis will retire at the end of the NRL season, meaning Saturday night’s battle for the minor premiership at AAMI Park could be his final showdown with Smith.
There has been no love lost between the hookers over the past 10 years – at both NRL and State of Origin level.
Ennis memorably mocked Smith in a 2014 elimination final, patting the national skipper on the head after a rare error during the lopsided match.
“Mick and I have had a fair rivalry for a while now and he’s played several games in State of Origin against me,” Smith said.
“I don’t know how it’ll pan out but he’s a fantastic player.
“He wants to win every battle he’s involved in and he does enjoy getting under the opposition’s skin.
“That’s something we can’t allow to affect us this weekend. There’s no doubt he’ll be at his scheming best.”
The Storm lost their cool in round four, when the Sharks successfully riled their opposition in a 14-6 triumph.
Cronulla prop Andrew Fifita in particular made it his mission to get in the face of Smith and fellow Queensland star Cooper Cronk.
“They played a really aggressive style of footy that night. They really got stuck into us,” Smith said.
“I don’t expect too much different this Saturday night.
“So it really comes down to the way we handle their physicality and aggression. I don’t think we handled it that well.”
Smith was full of respect for NSW skipper Paul Gallen, another member of Cronulla he has plenty of history with.
“He’s been a warrior for a long time … he’s been troubled by injury a lot the last 18 months but every time he gets out on the field he gets through a mountain of work,” Smith said.
“He will turn up this week and have 20 carries and is going to be asking questions of our defence all night, along with Michael Ennis.
“They are two wonderful players who will be at their best this weekend.”