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Beau Champion celebrates his try:	NRL Rugby League, Playoffs Round 1, Melbourne Storm v Newcastle Knights at Melbourne, Sunday September 11th 2011. Digital image by Colin Whelan copyright © nrlphotos.com

Melbourne may have entered the 2011 finals series as minor premiers but they did so with an air of uneasiness.

Two straight defeats at the end of the home-and-away season, including a 40-8 loss at the hands of the Roosters, had the critics circling around Craig Bellamy’s men.

However a stellar season, that produced 19 wins, earned Storm the right to host a home qualifying final at AAMI Park.

Their opponents Newcastle had scraped into the finals by a whisker courtesy of a 40-24 win over the Rabbitohs. That win halted their run of three consecutive defeats.

The Knights had not won in Melbourne since 2004, when Andrew Johns was still running around with their No.7 on his back.

It had also been five years since the Knights had won a final, so Rick Stone’s men arrived in Melbourne with a point to prove.

Storm received a huge boost prior to kick-off with the late inclusion of five-eighth Gareth Widdop.

The English playmaker suffered an ankle injury against the Roosters and was set to spend up to three weeks on the sidelines. However a quick recovery gave Storm fans and players an added injection of hope.

Acknowledgement of Country

Melbourne Storm respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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