Cameron Smith and Ryan Hoffman.
Both were sidelined last year and it was obvious how much the Storm missed their services.
For Cam Smith, almost everyone knows who crucial the hooker is to the Melbourne side.
But favourites Melbourne also rely heavily on the non-stop workload of Ryan Hoffman.Â Running hard on the fringes, making copious amounts of tackles of pulling off that critical stop mid-field – you can expect Hoffman to be there.
The Storm are much fresher in 2009 and deserve their hot favouritism as bookmakers last night penned them in as 1.60 favourites. The Eels being posted at 2.35.
The crowd factor is something the Storm have also learnt to deal with, as expected there will be 75,000 pro-Eels fans and possibly as little as 5,000 Storm faithful at ANZ Stadium on Sunday – but the 2 aces of Smith and Hoffman will ensure the Southerners will be much more competitive than last time round.
Smith hasn’t enjoyed the best of form in 2009, the consistent rake sets such high standards – that by comparison in 2009, he hasn’t quite been at the loft heights of previous years, yet.
His cool, calm personality is rare flustered and aids the Storm through tough periods of the game. Most only notice his cutting runs, or slick passing from around the ruck – but if you watch how many times Smith shuts down an opposition raid around the ruck, smothers a kick in behind the line or pushes through to backup a forward run – you’ll see how valuable he is in other areas.
For Hoffman, who used to hail from Campebelltown in Sydneys West – it’s a chance to play in yet another Grand Final after missing out last year. Hoffman confirming he would rather ‘lose’ a Grand Final than be forced to sit on the sidelines and watch again.
“Losing a grand final is one of the hardest things. It’s devastating losing a grand final, but not being able to play, not being able to help your teammates. You are just helpless and that is worse I feel.” said Hoffman.
“It’s just because you know how hard they are working and not being able to contribute to them is a hard thing.
“It is such a helpless feeling. I was feeling sorry for the boys out on the field to have what happened to them during the game.
“It was quite hard for them, I felt for them rather than for myself.
“But that’s done and now I get a chance to rectify that moment last year this year.” confirmed the Storm forward.
The Storm have a strong contingent of 9 players left in the squad from their Premiership winning 2007 NRL squad. This will be their 4th Grand Final in as many years, so far they have only won the 1 and they know the pressure that will come if they lose this match – an unwanted pressure that may remain with them for years to come.
But as Hoffman pointed out; if the Storm can win – “People determine greatness by premierships and if you get a couple of premierships in a decade then I suppose you deserve to be ranked as one of the quality teams,” he said.