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Still a hike to the NRL playoffs: Lillyman

Jacob Lillyman wants his Warriors team-mates to ignore the top-eight chatter and make it a reality.
Still a hike to the NRL playoffs: Lillyman
by AAP

By Daniel Gilhooly

WELLINGTON, July 27 NZN - Jacob Lillyman wants his Warriors team-mates to ignore the top-eight chatter and make it a reality.

Opposition teams and NRL pundits are growing firmer in their belief that the Kiwi club are one side sitting outside the playoff zone harbouring the form and ability to finish among the top eight.

However, victory on Sunday over the third-placed Melbourne Storm in Auckland still won't be enough for the 11th-placed Warriors to climb into the top half of the 16-team ladder.

They haven't been there all season after a shocking start and bustling prop Lillyman says nobody should expect the momentum of six wins from the past seven games to simply carry them into the playoffs.

"There's been all this talk about us but the reality is, there's still a lot of work to be done," he told NZ Newswire.

"We're hovering thereabouts but we need to chalk up some wins if we're going to go anywhere. It's a crucial point of the season and it's pretty simple, we have to play better."

Lillyman says his side will be shredded if they start as slowly against the Storm as they did in last week's 24-14 win over the Wests Tigers in Sydney.

The return of Melbourne game-breakers Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater will provide a stern examination of the Warriors ruck defence.

To reduce the trio's impact, the Warriors must counter the twisting and wrestling of the Storm forwards, who are more adept at winning the ground battle than any other NRL pack, Lillyman says.

Melbourne's season has been the opposite of the Warriors. Their first seven games were all won while Warriors opened with six losses from seven.

Of late, the Storm have struck another post-State of Origin hangover, losing three of their past four including a 39-0 loss to the Bulldogs without their Origin stars two weeks ago.

Lillyman tips Melbourne to return from their bye stinging from a result that will be deemed unacceptable by a proud outfit.

Brett Finch moves to five-eighth to cater for Cronk's return, pushing Maurice Blair back to centre and Justin O'Neill to the wing in place of Mahe Fonua.

Ngani Laumape replaces injured winger Glen Fisiiahi in the only starting change to the Warriors side who overran the Tigers.

The best player at Leichhardt Oval alongside 16-point halfback Shaun Johnson was skipper Simon Mannering, whose return to his best all-round form in the second row coincided with the Warriors' recent five-game winning streak.

"Simon's the cornerstone of our side, he's just so reliable," Lillyman said.


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