‘Never seen that’: Storm finals ploy raises eyebrows


The sight of Melbourne Storm players running at teammates wearing Penrith jerseys during opposed training sessions this week left their preliminary final opponents scratching their heads and one even had a “giggle”.

Pictures emerged of the Storm mentor Craig Bellamy’s men taking the unusual step during training at Gosch’s Paddock in Melbourne ahead of Friday’s blockbusters with several of players wearing replica Panthers jerseys, complete with logos and sponsors.

Melbourne has lost both encounters with Penrith this season, with a combined scoreline of 60-22 in favour of the back-to-back premiers and Storm are rank outsiders to upset the Panthers in Sydney in the grand final qualifier.

Using reserve players as opposition for teams to practice set plays is common, but Penrith prop Moses Leota said it was “weird” to see the likes of Storm giant Nelson Asofa-Solomona charging in to black jerseys.

“That was weird, it was the first time I have seen that,” Leota laughed on Wednesday.

“It is funny to see how other teams prepare differently to how we prepare.”

Newly re-signed prop Lindsay Smith said he had a “giggle” when he saw it but premiership winning Panthers big man James Fisher-Harris said if his coach Ivan Cleary thought it would help preparation for a massive game, he’d do it.

“I heard about it,” he said.

“I’d do that, it’s pretty smart. Maybe it’s just [about] the awareness. Whatever helps the team. That’s why they are doing it.”

Smith said Melbourne was just adding a new element to weekly opposition simulation every team does.

“For our boys that aren’t playing each week they will try and emulate the opposition team,” he said

“The Storm have found a different way to do that this week.”

The fitness of star Penrith playmaker Jarome Luai remains the biggest question around the Panthers this week as he looks to return from a dislocated shoulder earlier than most expected.

A key training session on Wednesday, and Luai’s recovery from it, could determine if he takes the field against Melbourne and join centre Izack Tago, who is recovering from a pectoral injury which could give Penrith it’s first full-strength team for the season.

“I can‘t remember when we have had a full strength team,” Fisher-Harris said.

“It‘s become normal for us with a next man-up sort of thing.

“Fingers crossed the boys will be sweet, it doesn’t matter who you are, you pull on a jersey and you have a job to do.”

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