Storm clash a big deal for Warriors

The Warriors, bidding to make the NRL play-offs for the first time in four years, can sense the stakes being raised when they host Melbourne.


The two clubs go into the clash at Mt Smart Stadium on Sunday locked on 20 points, the Storm’s better for-and-against putting them two places higher at fifth at the start of the round.

“It’s almost like a four-point game for us,” Warriors coach Andrew McFadden said, highlighting the logjam in the ladder.

Like Melbourne, the Warriors are coming off a bye.

Before their week off, the Auckland-based club produced dominant wins over Gold Coast and Canberra to get their campaign back on track.

Those results coincided with the return of classy fullback Sam Tomkins from a recurring knee injury.

Tomkins is confident the Warriors have built a platform for the remaining nine matches.

“We’ve played some good rugby in the last few weeks and won five from seven, so we’ve got a bit of momentum,” he said.

“For us, to start knocking some teams off that are sat a little bit higher than us will be big for us.”

Injury has restricted the England international, who is heading back to former club Wigan at the end of a season, to five matches in 2015.

The flipside of that is that the 26-year-old is feeling fresher than he normally would at this stage of the year.

“The body feels really good and to be feeling like that two months before the end of a regular season is not normal for me,” he said.

“This knee injury could have been a blessing in disguise for me.”

Tomkins was sidelined when the Warriors lost to the Storm 30-14 in Melbourne in early April.

This time around, it will be Kangaroos and Queensland counterpart Billy Slater who will be missing because of season-ending shoulder surgery.

The Storm have struggled in attack without Slater, but Tomkins is more concerned with the personnel the visitors will have on the park.

“I don’t think they’re going to turn up and be a bad team just because Slater is not in it,” Tomkins said.

“They’ve got some quality players throughout the 17, no matter who they send over.”

Melbourne will welcome back the Queensland trio of skipper Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Will Chambers after an Origin period during which they have managed just one win in five matches.

The Warriors also have a victorious Maroon backing up in prop Jacob Lillyman, but NSW second-rower Ryan Hoffman is doubtful after limping off with a calf injury in Wednesday’s decider.