Star fullback Billy Slater’s absence leaves a big hole for Melbourne, but Warriors counterpart Roger Tuivasa-Sheck has plenty of respect for his replacement.
The Storm will have Cameron Munster in the No.1 jersey in Auckland on Sunday when they look to make it three wins to start 2016.
Slater has been ruled out for the rest of the NRL season after a second shoulder reconstruction in nine months.
“He’s a massive loss for them, just the player he is, but Munster coming in isn’t a bad option,” Tuivasa-Sheck said.
“He was there for most of last year too, so he knows their game well.”
Munster, who made his debut in 2014 with his sole appearance that year, filled in when Slater was sidelined in 2015, playing 19 matches and scoring seven tries.
Tuivasa-Sheck said one edge that Slater did bring was the understanding honed over time with his Kangaroos and Queensland teammates in hooker Cameron Smith and half Cooper Cronk.
While the Storm have made another fast start to a season, the Warriors have fielded plenty of flak after dropping their first two matches to extend their losing streak to 10.
Bearing a lot of the scrutiny has been their own spine of Shaun Johnson and new recruits Tuivasa-Sheck, Jeff Robson and Issac Luke.
Tuivasa-Sheck said combinations were a work in progress.
“We’re training hard and we’re trying to make everything crisp, polish it all up,” he said.
“Game time is a different situation. You have to play on the run and you have to make sure you have the knowledge of what each other has and that’s what I’m working on.”
A big-name signing from the Sydney Roosters, Tuivasa-Sheck admits to disappointment in his own early form as a Warrior.
While there have been plenty of running metres – 200 in both weeks – there have also been a couple of costly missed tackles, something that rankles with a player who prides himself on his defence.
“Missing two important tackles, one-on-ones, has been a real downfall,” he said.
“I’ve sort of been focusing on my attack, so defence is where I need to pick up.”
STATS THAT MATTER
* The Warriors have lost 10 in a row, one short of the club record of 11 in 2010-2011.
* Their last victory came against Melbourne – 28-14 win at Mt Smart Stadium last July, when Nathan Friend produced his spectacular back-flip offload.
* While Melbourne have had far more overall success that the Warriors, they lead by just 18-16 in head-to-head meetings, with two draws.