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Storm travel tough road to NRL title defence

Coach Craig Bellamy has labelled Melbourne's NRL draw one of the toughest they've ever had.
Storm travel tough road to NRL title defence
by AAP

By Melissa Woods

MELBOURNE, Aug 1 AAP - Coach Craig Bellamy has labelled Melbourne's NRL draw one of the toughest they've ever had.

After four losses in their past five games, the defending champions face another huge challenge against the resurgent Raiders in Canberra on Sunday afternoon.

In recent years the Storm had two byes in the State of Origin period, which eased the pain of losing their "spine" in stars Billy Slater, Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith, as well as backrower Ryan Hoffman to state duty.

But this year they only had one bye, before the opening Origin on June 5.

A run of four away games from five, including Sunday's Canberra match, hasn't helped with the physical and mental toll on the players.

"I think this one of the toughest draws we've ever had, especially with the travel," said Bellamy.

"The draw hasn't been too kind to us, playing away is pretty taxing when you've got guys coming through Origin and then we're travelling nearly every week so that's been hard."

Melbourne have targeted two areas in their preparation for the Raiders - their start and tightening up their defence after conceding 69 points in their last two matches.

Despite a 30-22 loss to the Warriors in their last outing in Auckland, Bellamy said it wasn't all bad news.

"We created a lot of opportunities but couldn't finish some of them off," he said.

"It was a really good effort to get back into the game being 18-4 down against the Warriors and we probably could have got in front if we'd taken a couple of chances.

"We're just a bit patchy with our form and there are some things we need to tighten up."

He conceded the team, now in fourth position, wasn't where they'd like to be.

Last season the Storm endured a similar lean run, losing five straight games before breaking through for a win in round 22 that set up an unbeaten surge through to the grand final.

But Bellamy wasn't banking on a repeat performance.

"We've got to start picking up our form now.

"We're not going to wait a month, we've got to start playing well now."




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