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Civoniceva tips Storm trio to tame 'Dogs

No-one knows the value of Melbourne's star trio of Billy Slater, Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk better than their former Queensland teammate Petero Civoniceva.
Civoniceva tips Storm trio to tame 'Dogs
by NRL

By Ian McCullough

SYDNEY, Sept 28 AAP - No-one knows the value of Melbourne's star trio of Billy Slater, Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk better than their former Queensland teammate Petero Civoniceva.

Having played in 33 State of Origin matches, it was during the closing stages of his swansong in July that Civoniceva truly appreciated the importance of the Storm's big-game performers.

With nine minutes remaining, NSW levelled through a Josh Morris wonder try, converted by Todd Carney from the sideline.

A fired-up Blues side, desperate to end a run of six straight series losses, had their tails up, the Brisbane crowd were quiet and Paul Gallen and company could smell blood.

But thanks to the calm head of Smith and Cronk's 40-metre field goal four minutes from time, the Maroons climbed off the canvas to inflict another bloody nose on NSW.

And this is why Civoniceva cannot see anything but a Melbourne win against Canterbury in Sunday's NRL grand final.

"We've seen it time and time again, whether they're playing for Melbourne, Queensland or in the Test team, their composure in tight games gets the team home," Civoniceva told AAP.

"I've never seen Cameron get flustered, on or off the field. He's always got a cool, calm manner about him.

"He was exactly that in that Origin game. We stood under the posts after they'd scored and he just said: 'Keep calm, stay composed. We'll get through this'

"It's exactly what we needed to hear in a tough situation.

"That composure allowed us to get some momentum, make some inroads up the field, we got Cooper into the slot, and he kicked the field goal."

Civoniceva was a member of the Brisbane side that beat Melbourne in the 2006 grand final and earlier this week Cronk admitted that he'd let the occasion get to him.

Smith and Slater were also part of that Storm team which, like the current Canterbury side were in red-hot form, but with no experience of playing in a grand final.

"In that game guys like Darren Lockyer, Shane Webcke and Brad Thorn really stepped up," he said.

"It's about being able to stay patient and realising the bigger the game, the more you need to keep it simple.

"When you're young, your mind can fly and you end up thinking you have to do 101 things to make you play well, when really you don't."

Civoniceva and newly-crowned eighth Immortal Andrew Johns, both pinpointed Smith's temperament as potentially the biggest difference between the two sides.

And the great prop said the influence of Lockyer is evident in Smith's game and is expecting him to target the Bulldogs' giant forwards.

"Cameron has learned off Darren Lockyer," Civoniceva said.

"He was the ultimate in having composure in clutch moments.

"Melbourne will take on the Bulldogs down the middle, and Cam will try to get at Sam Kasiano and Frank Pritchard and tire them out."

Johns said he was leaning towards Canterbury to win the game, but conceded the contribution of the big three would be hard for the Bulldogs to contain.

"They're the best three players in the world, you can't stop them. Eventually they're going to get room," Johns told AAP on Friday.

"Smith is the captain-coach. He runs the show and is such a smart player. Whatever Craig Bellamy tells him to do in terms of a game plan he does it, but at his speed.

"And he does that for Queensland and Australia. Nothing fazes him."

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