Speaking to the media on Wednesday, Jahrome Hughes shared confidence in his teammates to continue business as usual after losing two key players in Sunday’s clash with the Dragons.
Centre, Reimis Smith, was walked off field after sustaining a ruptured pec in the opening 10 minutes of play, while star fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen followed suit in the second half after suffering a hamstring tear and PCL injury.
Melbourne, known for their ‘next man up’ mentality, will go into the highly anticipated Magic Round clash with the Penrith Panthers with the same drive and confidence as every other week.
“It will be challenging losing those players, but we have full faith and who comes in and does the job...we trust those guys to come in and have that next man up mentality.” Hughes said.
New recruit, Nick Meaney has been named to step into the No.1 jersey, replacing Papenhuyzen, having trained in the position throughout the off-season and having experience in the role from pre-season trials and his time at the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs.
“Nick has been in such great form...he’s got a lot of confidence.” Hughes shared.
“He’s been great for the whole year actually, he trained in a couple different positions, I know he’s normally a fullback, but he’s played on the wing and in the halves for us which has been good,
“He’s done a lot of work there as fullback and we have confidence in him in that spot,
“I know we’re missing Paps and he’s got a certain way of playing but we don’t want to change too much, we only want to tweak the little things and hopefully Means can fill in there.”
To cover the loss of Smith, Marion Seve will finally return to the squad after injury saw the centre drop out of the Storm line-up early in the 2020 season.
“It’s good to see him playing. He’s had a pretty tough couple years and a few injuries and it’s good to see him get his opportunity, obviously it’s devastating to see what happened to Reimis, but to see Maz get his opportunity is really great.” Hughes said.
Dubbed a ‘modern day rivalry’ after the Panthers dashed Melbourne’s 2021 finals dreams, the Saturday night match will play host to a sell-out crowd at Suncorp Stadium. With Storm heading into the clash with six consecutive wins and Penrith carrying their first loss of the season, Hughes admits the match up will be tough, but nothing out of the ordinary for the seasoned squad.
“We've had a couple of good wins In the last couple weeks and it's going to be a big challenge for us and although they lost last week feel like they’ll still bring the fight, and it should be a good test.” The halfback stated.
“We don’t want to overthink it too much, I know the bigger the game, the simpler things get for us.”