21/04/2024

Jesse Bromwich. Photo: Melbourne Storm.

Melbourne Storm coach Craig Bellamy says his team is ready to face the Penrith Panthers in the Grand Final rematch despite their tough start to the year.

Melbourne Storm coach Craig Bellamy is aware that his team will be in for yet another challenge to start the season as it faces the Panthers on Thursday night.

“It’s going to be a tough match up,” he said at his press conference on Wednesday.

“They’re the form team of the competition, they had a great run last year too I think they won 17 games straight up until the Grand Final and now they have started the season off and they haven’t conceded a point yet.”

Bellamy admitted it has been a tough start to the season, and his side will be without full back Ryan Papenhuyzen, who has been a shining light for the team so far.

“He [Papenhuyzen] was outstanding again he has been our best player in the first two games by a mile really,” he said.

“His figures from last week were unbelievable, the amount of runs he had and the metres and his involvements just in contact.”

With a tough stretch to start the season the loads on the Storm’s star players are being managed but according to Bellamy that’s nothing different to usual.

“His [Papenhuyzen] work rate is quite phenomenal, and we all know how tough he is so he’ll never shirk that so we have given him a bit more of a rest this week so he can be fresh,” he said.

“You have to be thinking about your training all the time and what your loads are and what your turnaround is and all those sort of things but that’s not anything different.”

Panthers star halfback Nathan Cleary has been ruled out as he failed to recover from the concussion he suffered last week.

Pre-game, Bellamy said they’d prepared for Cleary to be there before he was ruled out on Wednesday afternoon.

“It would be silly to not prepare for him to be there because if he is there, we will need to do a few different things really well to blunt his effectiveness because a big part of their team is Nathan Cleary,” Bellamy said.

“They move the ball around more than any other side in the competition and he is always setting the stage for that.”

“We have had to prepare but if he doesn’t play, we know who is coming in and what his qualities are as well.”

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