Storm prop Nelson Asofa-Solomona.

Jason Ryles calls it "a line in the sand" game. It was round six, 2016, at AAMI Park.

The Storm got bashed around by a bruising Bulldogs pack led by James Graham, Aiden Tolman and David Klemmer.

On that April night, the Storm pack decided they needed to lift their physicality - or risk getting dominated again in the future.

"The boys drew a line in the sand [that day]," remembers Ryles, the Storm's assistant coach.

"It was a really physical game and they stood up. We didn't win that game, but the physical presence the boys showed was outstanding."

Jesse Bromwich, Cameron Smith, Dale Finucane, Kenny Bromwich, Tim Glasby, Felise Kaufusi and Nelson Asofa-Solomona took that oath, and those efforts paved the way for the 2017 premiership and a spot in this year's preliminary finals.

The Storm will face either the Sharks or Panthers. They haven't beaten either team this year.

In good news for Craig Bellamy's team, departing veteran Ryan Hoffman (hamstring) has been training well and Nelson Asofa-Solomona (ankle) will also be available for selection.

Storm back-rower Felise Kaufusi.
Storm back-rower Felise Kaufusi. ©Grant Trouville/NRL Photos

Asofa-Solomona's improvement is a massive boost for the premiers, as he has arguably been the Storm's most consistent forward this season.

Ryles only had good things to say about the way the giant prop has played.

"He's a huge 'in' for any team. He's big, he's powerful, and he's improved game by game this year," he said.

"There was a bit of a void left by Jordan McLean last year, and I think he's certainly taking that opportunity with both hands this year."

Kaufusi has also stepped up this year, and Ryles said Storm head coach Craig Bellamy turned on some of his motivational magic to encourage the second-rower ahead of the win over the Rabbitohs.

"Fus [Kaufusi] is a pretty casual guy, and having Craig Bellamy as his coach is a really good thing, because he doesn't let him get away with too much, and when he senses he is getting a bit comfortable - he props his chair back up again," Ryles said.

"He certainly did that the other day, and did it in a meeting in front of everyone."

The Storm are in the handy position of being able to sit back watch the Sharks and Panthers fight it out in sudden-death football on Friday night.

"Hopefully it's as physical as it can be and there are a heap of tackles in the game with hardly any stoppages, that would be great for us next week," Ryles said.

 

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