By STEVE MASCORD
CANBERRA captain Terry Campese has predicted self-doubt could creep in for the out-of-sorts Melbourne Storm if the Raiders hold them out for the opening 20 minutes of their crucial clash.
The Storm arrived in the capital late Saturday hoping to end a two match losing streak and right their premiership defence. While Melbourne have won 10 of their last 11 games at Canberra Stadium, the Green Machine hasn’t been beaten there all year.
“The main focus for us … will be the first 20 minutes,” five-eighth Campese said at training on Saturday.
“If we can match it with them in the first 20, hopefully they start asking themselves a few questions and that’s when we can get on top of them.
“That’s when young Tony Milford and players like that, like Reecey (Robinson) come into their own and can hopefully create some havoc in the middle.”
Campese, who turns 29 on Sunday, predicted the premiers and world champions would be “fired up”.
“They’ve lost two in a row and it’s definitely unlike Melbourne to be in this kind of slump,” he said. “I know Craig Bellamy will have them at their best.”
But Canberra aren’t just hoping for victory, which would leave them just one competition point behind the Storm. David Furner’s side has its sights on a top four finish – even though they have arguably the toughest run of any of the teams around them.
“We’ve got a tough run home – I think everyone we play’s in the top eight (plus the Warriors)… top four’s our main focus,” he said. “You get a home semi-final and if you lose, you get another week.”
Canberra could be further boosted by the late inclusions of centre Jack Wighton (groin) and prop Tom Learoyd-Lahrs (foot).
“Close, very close,” Furner said when asked about the chances of the pair playing. “Tommy and Jacko are going to do a bit of warm-up.”
But controversial NSW Origin star Blake Ferguson will not be playing a role. He played NSW Cup on Saturday.
“The team’s been going well, Fergo said to me after the game last week he was underdone,” Furner explained. “And even in the fitness during the week….I know he’s been doing some alternative training in those four or five weeks but …..
“I expect a good showing for the following week. I watched his game … there’s some areas there he needs to work on. It’s just about match fitness.”
Storm coach Craig Bellamy, meanwhile, says assistant Kevin Walters will definitely stay on untol the end of the season, regardless of whether he is appointed as Neil Henry’s replacement at North Queensland.
“We do things a little bit differently than in the AFL,” said Bellamy. “I’m not going to cut off my nose to spite my face.
“Kevvy’s does a good job and and is an important part of what we do here.”
Teams for the match, which kicks off at Canberra Stadium at 2.05pm, are:
CANBERRA: Anthony Milford; Reece Robinson, Jarrod Croker, Joel Thompson, Sandor Earl; Terry Campese ©, Josh McCrone; Shaun Fensom, Joel Edwards, Josh Papalii, Dane Tilse, Glen Buttriss, David Shillington. Res: Shaun Berrigan, Jarrad Kennedy, Brett White, Paul Vaughan.
MELBOURNE: Billy Slater; Sisa Waqa, Will Chambers, Maurice Blair, Justin O’Neill; Brett Finch, Cooper Cronk; Ryan Hinchcliffe, Ryan Hoffman, Kevin Proctor, Bryan Norrie, Cameron Smith ©, Jesse Bromwich. Res: Jason Ryles, Tohu Harris, Siosia Vave, Slade Griffin .
Referees: Jared Maxwell/Gavin Morris.
Filed for: SUNDAY AGE