North Queensland will take impressive form into Saturday night’s preliminary final against Melbourne but the Storm have benefited greatly from their week’s rest.
The Cowboys set up the clash with a dominant 39-0 whitewash of Cronulla in Townsville, while Craig Bellamy’s side rested up after dispatching the Sydney Roosters in the qualifying final.
Marika Koroibete (heel laceration), Jordan McLean (knee) and Tim Glasby (knee) all picked up injuries during the qualifying final win and would have struggled to be fit if Melbourne had needed to play again a week later.
“It was extremely important for us – we got a few injuries out of last week’s game and having the week off was certainly a benefit,” Billy Slater said while his Storm teammates went through a light training session on Sunday.
“Big Jordan McLean’s out there, I think he was in a bit of doubt, but it’s great to see him (training).
“He looks like a trotting horse with all the strapping on him but he’s out there running, which is a great sign.”
All three are expected to be available for the AAMI Park clash.
Slater, who had season-ending shoulder surgery in June, admitted he was finding it difficult to watch from the sidelines while the Storm made their finals run.
Cameron Munster has filled in admirably in the star fullback’s absence, with Slater doing what he can to help in an off-field capacity.
“I try and help Cameron out where I can – all the back three – I do it when I’m playing anyway so my role’s not too different when I’m not playing,” he said.
“It’s great that I can contribute a little bit there with the younger guys in that unit but they’re doing a tremendous job anyway.
“Their hard work is what’s getting us success at the moment.”
Slater felt that North Queensland snapped back into form against the Sharks after an indifferent month and present a huge challenge as the Storm attempt to book their grand final berth.
“The Cowboys coming down here, led by Jonathan Thurston – they’ve got some big boppers in their side as well so it’s going to be a tough ask for the boys,” he said.
“I was impressed by the whole side (against Cronulla) but probably Michael Morgan, a younger guy in their side, that really stood up and shone too.
“Thurston is going to give you his best every week – it’s the guys around him that can pick up that notch that really make it dangerous when you play the Cowboys.”