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Storm still in race to defend NRL title

Melbourne Storm may be taking the hard road but are still very much in the race to win the NRL crown, according to halfback Cooper Cronk.
Storm still in race to defend NRL title
by AAP

By Melissa Woods

MELBOURNE, Sept 16 AAP - Melbourne Storm may be taking the hard road but are still very much in the race to win the NRL crown, according to halfback Cooper Cronk.

The Storm must win three successive matches to successfully defend their title, starting with Newcastle in their elimination final at AAMI Park on Saturday night.

Melbourne fell to South Sydney 20-10 last Friday night while the Knights steamrolled Canterbury 22-6 to advance to the final six.

Cronk felt the Storm let an opportunity slip in their loss to the Rabbitohs but he didn't think it would impact on their season's hopes.

"I've seen people in Formula One win a race from not being in pole position," said Cronk.

"We have to take the hard road now but it's not impossible.

"This club's success has been built on hard work and that's what we have in front of us this week."

The Storm received some good news with athletic winger Sisa Waqa likely to be available for the sudden-death clash.

Waqa was back at Melbourne training on Monday, running freely as he completed the drills.

An MRI scan gave him the all-clear after he landed on his head while attempting to collect a bomb against the Rabbitohs and was taken to hospital in a neck brace.

Melbourne will have a selection dilemma at five-eighth with Brett Finch also training, pushing to regain his No.6 starting jersey from Gareth Widdop.

Finch wasn't available to face Souths due to a sternoclavicular injury, allowing Widdop to make his first NRL appearance since June.

Cronk wasn't sure which way coach Craig Bellamy would go.

"Obviously Brett wasn't up to the occasion on Friday night and Gareth made a successful return so the coaching staff will sit down and make those decisions.

"Hopefully Brett will be right and then it's a good positive headache for the club."

Cronk wasn't surprised by the margin of Newcastle's win over the Bulldogs, saying the Knights defended well while their opponents were a "little off". The Storm have won seven straight against the Knights, who also haven't won in the Victorian capital since 2004.

Cronk downplayed their domination.

"We're very well aware of their capabilities and we've had two close encounters over the course of this year."

"My honest opinion is that it's irrelevant.

"Seven wins against Newcastle doesn't mean a hell of a lot."


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