SEVENTIES rugby league star Russell Fairfax says the current Melbourne Storm side deserves to beat the record of 19 consecutive wins set by his Eastern Suburbs Roosters team – and will get a step closer to making history by outclassing the Warriors tonight.
In a delicious piece of sporting serendipity, if the Storm continue on their unbeaten run, they will have to beat the Roosters on May 25 to equal the run of 19 victories by the club’s ’75 side.
Tonight’s opponents Anzac Day AAMI Park opponents have the best recent record of any team against Craig Bellamy’s men, who have managed to better them just five times in their last 11 meetings.
“I think the Storm will have a bit too much for the Warriors and they’ll keep whizzing towards our record,” Fairfax tells The Age.
“You don’t want to lose the record but records are there to be broken and if any team deserves to beat us for most consecutive wins, it’s this Melbourne Storm side.
“They’ve been the form side for a number of years now and are a really impressive team.”
The Storm’s next six opponents are the Warriors (home), Canberra (home), Penrith (away), Manly (home), Sydney Roosters (away) and then Cronulla (home).
The 1975 Roosters won 19 consecutive games in the one season, whereas the Storm’s mark has been set over an off-season. Featuring the likes of Fairfax, Ian Schubert, Ron Coote, John Brass, John Peard and Arthur Beetson, the Roosters beat St George 38-0 in the grand final.
The Storm will join five other teams in premiership history to have won 15 games on the trot if they are successful tonight before a big crowd.
“I think Manly will provide a big hurdle for them,” said Fairfax. “If they win that, it’s going to be a great occasion when they play the Roosters to equal their record.”
Storm football manager Frank Ponissi said Slade Griffin, Maurice Blair and Justin O’Neill would be the men omitted from a seven-man bench.
Warriors captain Simon Mannering ran yesterday after a calf injury kept him out of the Anzac Test but did not train with the team. If he is out, Sam Rapira will be captain.
Centre Jerome Ropati, named on an extended bench after making his return from injury over several weeks in the NSW Cup, will play according to the club.
Only 1000 tickets remained available to the general public last night for what has become a traditional clash to complement the St George Illawarra-Sydney Roosters game in Sydney.
“To play on Anzac Day is definitely a privilege,” said Melbourne prop Jason Ryles. “I’ve been lucky to do it for both the Dragons and Roosters and now the Storm.
“Certainly, the atmosphere is a lot different to a normal game and the intensity of the game seems to follow that as well.”
Former Stormer Todd Lowrie returns to AAMI Park for the first time. Asked about the Warriors’ good record against Melbourne, Lowrie said on the club website: “I think it’s just the way the boys have turned up to play over the years.
“I don’t think it’s anything Melbourne have done wrong during those games. It’s just that the Warriors have tended to … bring their A-game and play really well in Melbourne.
“I don’t know what it is but I hope I find out!”
Teams for the match, which kicks off at 7.05pm at AAMI Park, are:
MELBOURNE: Billy Slater; Sisa Waqa, Will Chambers, Junior Sau, Mahe Fonua; Gareth Widdop, Cooper Cronk; Tohu Harris, Ryan Hoffman, Kevin Proctor, Bryan Norrie, Cameron Smith (c), Jesse Bromwich. Res: Jason Ryles, Lagi Setu, Kenny Bromwich, Junior Moors
WARRIORS: Kevin Locke; Bill Tupou, Ngani Naumape, Konrad Hurrell, Glen Fisiahi; Thomas Leuluai, Shaun Johnson; Todd Lowrie, Ben Henry, Feleti Mateo, Russell Packer, Nathan Friend, Sam Rapira (c). Res: Elijah Taylor, Ben Matulino, Jacob Lillyman, Peta Godinet, Jerome Ropati.
Referees: Matt Cecchin/Henry Perenara.
Filed for: THE AGE