Valentine Holmes will be key for the Sharks when they take on the Storm. Picture: Brett Costello
Valentine Holmes will be key for the Sharks when they take on the Storm. Picture: Brett Costello

Storm’s plan to shut down Val

BILLY Slater has warned the Melbourne Storm must be mindful of Cronulla Sharks game-breaker Valentine Holmes in Friday night'spreliminary final.

Holmes paced the Sharks to victory last time the two sides met and Slater doesn't want history to repeat in the grand finalqualifier.

Slater raised yesterday the importance of keeping tabs on Holmes "at all times".

"He'll be an indicator of where they're setting up their structure but also (he's) a damaging runner," Slater said.

"Our kick chases need to be first class or else he'll get them off to a good start, or he'll make a line-break, so it's importantthat we do a really good job on Val."

Valentine Holmes looms as a real danger. Picture by Brett Costello.
Valentine Holmes looms as a real danger. Picture by Brett Costello.

Opposing fullback Holmes amassed 145 run metres in the Round 22 clash, including a momentum shifting try and three tacklebusts.

The Sharks boast an impressive strike rate over the Storm, having won four of the past five matches including the breakthrough2016 grand final victory.

But Slater said past performances had no bearing on the next 80 minutes of football.

"It all comes down to Friday night," the retiring fullback said.

"Not really what's happened the last two games or the last five games.

"I don't think there's a whole heap between the two teams, both teams have got great forward packs, very aggressive, creativehalves and skill out wide that can finish off tries."

This Friday’s match will be Slater’s last in Melbourne. AAP Image/Andy Brownbill.
This Friday’s match will be Slater’s last in Melbourne. AAP Image/Andy Brownbill.

Slater said yesterday the crunch final was more important than the possibility of it being his and Ryan Hoffman's last NRLgames.

"The position that we're in is far bigger than myself," Slater said.

"If we play well... we give ourselves a chance to play in a grand final, that's what we've all been working really hard forthe last 11 months."

Hoffman will be named in the squad tonight, but the veteran isn't assured of playing with second-rower Joe Stimson in thebox seat after holding down the fort in the run to September.

Hoffman's career looked over last month he suffered a potentially serious hamstring injury in the Round 22 loss to the Sharks.

Can Slater turn it on for the Storm one more time? Photo by Graham Denholm/Getty Images.
Can Slater turn it on for the Storm one more time? Photo by Graham Denholm/Getty Images.

"It's a tough situation," Slater said.

"He probably felt his season was over. They gave him a timeline of 8-10 weeks to get back and there was only seven weeks left. To get back and play was a fantastic effort.

"I'm sure he'll be in the mix."

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