The pain of being stripped of two NRL premierships still burns Melbourne, but Billy Slater warned against letting it become the Storm’s sole focus ahead of tonight’s NRL preliminary final against Manly.
The Queensland fullback refused to acknowledge his side did not officially win the 2007 and 2009 deciders, which were relinquished after it emerged the club was cheating the salary cap.
But he insisted his bitterness towards the NRL over the decision that fateful day in April 2010 had eased, and said looking back could have a negative effect on the team.
‘‘In my book I’ve won a couple of grand finals,’’ Slater said yesterday.
‘‘As a player I don’t look at the past whether it’s good or bad. If you hold yourself up in the past you’re going to find it hard to compete in the future.
‘‘If we look back too much we will find ourselves sitting on our backsides with no more games to play this year.
‘‘We respect our history and what we’ve done in the past. But it’s about now and this group of players.’’
Victory over the reigning premiers at AAMI Park will take Craig Bellamy’s side to a September 30 showdown against either South Sydney or Canterbury at ANZ Stadium.
But in their way stands a club who’ve not lost a preliminary final since 1975.
The two teams have developed a fierce rivalry in recent years, contesting two grand finals, with the Storm prevailing in 2007 and Manly gaining revenge 12 months later.
Both play in an aggressive style, and a clash last year boiled over in the infamous Battle of Brookvale.
The mass brawl involving players from either side ended with Glenn Stewart and Adam Blair being sent off, and Slater was expecting another bruising encounter.
‘‘Manly are a great side and we’ve had a lot of great battles in the past,’’ he said. ‘‘A lot of the games are real close and it’s a preliminary final so we know it’s going to be a physical battle.’’
Slater’s opposite number Brett Stewart is in red-hot form for Manly, and the 29-year-old is a huge admirer of the NSW custodian.
‘‘Brett Stewart is a great player and has been for about 10 years now,’’ he said. ‘‘He’s a danger to us.
‘‘We’re going to have to make sure our kick-chase is on song and we get down the field in numbers to make it hard for him.’’