Storm brewing in battle for top-four finish

NRL finals sleeper Melbourne has a great opportunity to break into the top four with a win against lowly placed Newcastle at home tonight.

When the Storm lost world-class fullback Billy Slater to season-ending shoulder surgery in June, many punters put a red line through the team's title claims.

But with Cameron Munster (pictured) quickly growing into Slater's No.1 jumper, the Storm has risen to the challenge, highlighted by a five-try 30-2 thrashing of Cronulla last weekend.

A win tonight would move Melbourne to 30 points, equal with Souths, which has a plus-63 points differential, and Cronulla, which is minus-12.

The Storm's far superior differential of 118 would see it edge into fourth spot, ahead of the Rabbitohs before their final two games of the regular season against the Cowboys (home) and Broncos (away).

Coach Craig Bellamy's impressive finals record can't be sold short when it comes to the business end of the season.

And with Souths (Greg Inglis), the Roosters (Mitchell Pearce and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves) and Cowboys (Michael Morgan and James Tamou) all losing key players, the finals picture has suddenly become murky until the full extent of injuries is known.

Melbourne has regrouped since the State of Origin series, winning four of its past five games, with few injury concerns apart from forward Dale Finucane (wrist).

"If you can have guys who are playing well, and keep the same side basically each and every week, that is a huge advantage," Bellamy said.


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