Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy is bracing for another tough challenge from the Storm’s modern-day bogey team Newcastle in Saturday’s NRL clash at AAMI Park.
The Knights have won three of the past four matches between the two teams, including a huge upset in Melbourne late in the 2015 home and away season which torpedoed the Storm’s top-two hopes.
Bellamy has several issues to contend with this week, with his team coming off a five-day break and an ugly 14-6 loss to Cronulla.
They also need to find replacements for suspended winger Marika Koroibete and centre Curtis Scott, who broke his leg in the loss to the Sharks and will likely be sidelined for two months.
The Knights sit second from bottom on the NRL ladder with only one win from their opening four matches.
But they do have a habit of saving their best for the Storm, with Bellamy wary of the threat posed by halves pairing Jarrod Mullen and Trent Hodkinson.
“They beat us last year by coming down here and being very consistent with not doing too much with the footy, working hard in the play the ball to play the ball quickly, but not putting too many passes on,” Bellamy said on Wednesday.
“But this year they have got some really good structures and they are putting a lot of passes on.
“I’m not quite sure which way they’re going to go but I can only go on what they’ve been doing this year and their attack’s been really good.
“That will be something we have to defend really well against.”
With Scott joining a mounting injury list which also includes outside backs Billy Slater, Cheyse Blair and Jeremy Hawkins, the Storm are having their depth tested early in the season.
But on the positive side, Kiwi international second-rower Kevin Proctor is a chance to return from a thigh injury suffered early in the round-three victory over the Warriors.
“We’re hoping that he’ll play but we’re not going to take any chances,” said Bellamy.
“We don’t want him to get out there and then have four or six weeks off.
“We’ll just see how he trains today (and Friday).”
PAST FOUR MATCHES BETWEEN THE STORM AND THE KNIGHTS
Newcastle bt Melbourne 20-6 at AAMI Park, Aug 24, 2015
Newcastle bt Melbourne 32-30 at Hunter Stadium, Aug 9, 2014
Melbourne bt Newcastle 28-20 at AAMI Park, March 3, 2014
Newcastle bt Melbourne 18-16 at AAMI Park, semi-final, Sept 21, 2013