Hard work behind Storm purple patch
WITH the Storm well and truly entrenched in a purple patch of form after six-straight wins, it's hard to imagine that serious self doubt had gripped the club during a harrowing post-Origin period.
But that was certainly the case on July 27 after Melbourne lost to the Dragons - it was their fifth-straight defeat and heads hung low.
Plenty of critics, including Storm coach Craig Bellamy, could not pinpoint where the Melbourne machine had gone wrong.
Whatever the cause, football manager Frank Ponissi has credited the form turnaround directly to the players.
And on the eve of tonight's do-or-die preliminary final against arch rival Manly at AAMI Park, Ponissi said plain hard work had put the club within one win of another grand final.
"We've built some momentum, but the way the boys bounced back from that five-game losing streak was really impressive," he said. "That period was uncharted waters for our coach and the senior players here. Some self doubt crept in, but we stuck to what we believed in.
"We tweaked a few things, but everyone just kept working hard - that was a really important period to get through and we did that."
Despite his side's impressive run of form, Ponissi said slow starts were still a cause for concern.
"Besides our win over Souths (in week one of the finals), we haven't started our games as well as we would've liked recently," he said. "If we let Manly start well, that will be dangerous."
The Storm and the Sea Eagles enjoy a bitter rivalry going back to the 2007 grand final, won by Melbourne, before Manly famously triumphed 40-0 in the premiership decider the following year.
Ponissi dismissed talk that tonight's game could contain some fireworks because of the history both clubs share.
"The 2008 grand final is water under the bridge now," he said.