They may have won their past six NRL matches to be unbeaten in 2012, but Canterbury coach Des Hasler wants his players to relish the chance to face a red-hot Melbourne side.
Hasler has been hugely impressed with the Storm’s start to the season and typically was quick to play up how difficult his side’s chances of victory will be at AAMI Park on Saturday.
“They’re playing really good footy and the way they have started the season shows they are the benchmark for every other team,” Hasler said.
“For us, it is a real test for us to play against them.
“The way they have been scoring against some of the more fancied sides like North Queensland in Townsville last week has been very impressive.”
The Bulldogs also started the year well, winning their opening three fixtures, but two defeats in their past three encounters have curbed the excitement around Belmore.
However, they are unbeaten in three matches away from home this season and, in Hasler, have a coach who won six of his last ten meetings with the Storm when in charge of Manly.
Despite his respectable record, Hasler insists his Bulldogs will have it all to do if they are to reduce the influence of the Storm’s star trio of Cooper Cronk, Billy Slater and Cameron Smith.
“Their big three players have been playing together for such a long time and their great advantage is that they know each others games so well and that is what you are combating,” he said.
“But they are great side to play against. It’s a great opportunity for our players to get out there and face some real personal challenges.
“If I was still playing I would be relishing playing against three of the best players in their positions in the world and testing myself.”
The Bulldogs have won just once in the Victorian capital in 10 years – and that was back in 2005.
Former Storm winger Steve Turner has first-hand knowledge of the Storm’s methods having spent five successful seasons with the club.
“It’s always a test when any club faces the Storm. They are playing some great stuff,” he said.
“I haven’t beaten them since I left and it would be nice to get one up on them.
“But it’s going to take an 80-minute performance from all 17 of us. They’re a team that likes to get into an arm wrestle and into a grind.
“Everyone talks about the big three and they seem to get better with age and Craig (coach Bellamy) really has them on song at the start of the year.”