Without their usual points buffer as one of the NRL frontrunners veteran Ryan Hoffman says it’s now or never for Melbourne.
The Storm are in unfamiliar territory at this time of the season, sitting eighth heading into round 19 and their clash with Canberra at AAMI Park tomorrow.
Usually Melbourne can afford a few hiccups heading into the finals with their place already assured but their season still hangs in the balance.
They are one of five teams locked on 20 competition points and face the possibility of dropping out of the eight with a loss.
“The season wraps up very quickly and you need to start cementing yourself in that eight and getting as close as you can to the top four because there’s so many other teams on the same points,” Hoffman said.
“It’s not like previous years when we’ve had a few wins under our belt and we’ve had a buffer there.
“We can’t afford to slow down we need to be taking these next steps.”
The Raiders are rated 15th but have the envious record of wins in their past three starts in Melbourne.
In their last clash in Canberra a Paul Vaughan try in the dying minutes secured a 24-22 win for the home side.
Hoffman felt they could draw confidence from their 6-4 loss to Canterbury last round, which was a vast improvement on their poor showing against St George Illawarra.
Storm coach Craig Bellamy rated the match as their best defensive performance of the season and Hoffman said it was now the benchmark they needed to strive for each week.
“If we put the performance that we had against the Bulldogs in against the Raiders we’re going to give ourselves the best opportunity,” Hoffman said.
“We did everything we could but couldn’t get the win but we did take a lot of confidence out of the effort.
“That’s the standard for us now; we’ve got to have that effort every week.”
The Raiders have a special reason to go for four-straight in Melbourne with popular lock forward Shaun Fensom playing his 100th NRL match.