No Burgess baiting for me, vows Storm leader

Melbourne skipper Cameron Smith has no intention of trying to bait South Sydney star Sam Burgess – or any of his three brothers – to gain an advantage in Friday night’s qualifying final.

Burgess has shown his buttons can be pushed – he was recently suspended for two games for a squirrel grip – but Smith, who some have described as the code’s best niggler, insisted he had no plan to ruffle any feathers.

”I definitely won’t be baiting any of the Burgess boys, they have about 40 kilos on me, so I’ll be staying well away from them – trust me,” he said on Monday.

Smith nominated Sam Burgess as one of the players he enjoyed watching because of his unbridled passion and warrior-like approach.

”He’s just a physical rugby league player and he plays really tough, I enjoy watching him play,” he said. ”He plays the game aggressively.”

The Storm, in the hunt to defend its premiership title despite being overshadowed by both Souths and minor premiers Sydney Roosters this season, expects a tough battle.

”Even if they had a win over the Roosters the other night I think they’d come out firing,” Smith said of Souths. ”They were playing for a minor premiership and unfortunately the Roosters pipped them to that. As far as we’re concerned we’re not looking into what people are saying about their team, we know they’re a very good football side and they’re going to come out and play a great game.”

Smith said the Storm was confident of being able to win regardless of the anticipated army of Souths supporters. And the statistics show the Rabbitohs’ last win over Melbourne in Sydney was 2004.

”We have a bit of a thing in our club, it doesn’t matter who we play or where we play, we always go out and play our best and it’s going to be no different this week,” he said.

”Hopefully that record stays that way but we’re not looking into results or what happened last year or what happened this year. We just know we’re going to be playing against a very good side.”

Gareth Widdop played his first game in 13 weeks at the weekend after being sidelined by a dislocated hip. After his 65 minutes for feeder club Easts Tigers in the Queensland Cup, there was a suggestion he could be shunted into Friday night’s qualifier.

”I know Gareth would be up to the challenge to play in this game, he’s played in big games before,” Smith said. ”Physically, I’m not too sure where he’s at … He’s bound to be underdone physically but we’ll just have to wait and see.

”We have to wait to see how Brett Finch is as well. He had scans on his chest and if he comes back all clear I’d dare say he’ll be wearing the No.6 jersey.”

■ Manly’s George Rose is in negotiations to join Melbourne next season. Rose, off contract at the end of the season, has been told he is surplus to requirements.

Several clubs have expressed interest but the Storm looms as his most likely destination.

With Adrian Proszenko

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

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