Melbourne are ready to get physical as they prepare for all-out aggression from Cronulla in Saturday night’s NRL minor premiership decider.
The winner of the AAMI Park blockbuster will top the ladder, taking a mental edge and mountains of confidence into the following week’s finals series.
Those sort of stakes alone will ensure it is a bruising battle.
Throw in the fact Cronulla successfully rattled Storm’s stars, especially Cooper Cronk, in a round-four victory and there is a good chance things could get heated.
“It was a bit of an ambush last time. I guess we didn’t think it was coming,” Storm prop Jesse Bromwich said on Wednesday.
“This time we know it’s coming. You’ve just got to prepare for it. You can’t get shocked when it hits out there.
“They’re a physical team … (Andrew) Fifita, Wade Graham and Paul Gallen are all physical players who get up in your face and give you a little bit extra.
“You’ve just got to prepare for a tough game … they’re going to come down here and play an aggressive style so we’ve got to match that.”
Sharks centre Jack Bird noted this week Brisbane “got up in Melbourne’s face” during last Friday’s upset win, calling on his side to do the same.
“He can say that but whether he does it I don’t know. For us it’s about preparing ourselves for a really tough match and not getting caught up in that kind of stuff,” Bromwich said.
It’s likely Bromwich will find himself playing both peacemaker and protector this weekend.
As the leader of Melbourne’s forward pack he will need a cool head to defuse any scraps, knowing any suspensions will result in teammates missing finals.
The New Zealand skipper is also aware Cameron Smith and Cronk are likely to be in Cronulla’s crosshairs again.
“Cameron and Cooper are great players and they don’t need bodyguards,” Bromwich said.
“If I’m close around then I’ll try to protect them a little bit more but my job is to get my job done the best I can, not to look after them.”
The 27-year-old suggested Storm were more focused on making amends for the last-start loss to the Broncos than the prospect of winning the minor premiership.
“It was pretty disappointing the way we performed last week,” Bromwich said.
“The coaches didn’t have to say too much, we were pretty filthy on ourselves. It was hard to watch some of the things.”