Storm trying to keep abnormal NRL normal

Melissa Woods
Melbourne NRL coach Craig Bellamy (L) has tried to keep pre-match routines as normal as possible

Melbourne are hoping to bring some normality to their abnormal circumstances as they prepare for their first NRL match under coronavirus conditions.

The Storm will be picked up by the 48-seat NRL charter flight early on Saturday afternoon - after it has deposited Canberra players on the Gold Coast - and flown to Sydney for Melbourne's night clash with Cronulla.

The lights on the flight will be dimmed and windows shut to encourage those players, like lock Dale Finucane, who usually nap before matches, to stick to their routine.

The players will spend time in a specially created lounge at Jubilee Stadium at Kogarah where they will eat together before preparing for kickoff.

Storm coach Craig Bellamy said it would take time to adjust to their new travel plans.

"We're trying to make it as normal as possible but it will be different," Bellamy said.

"We're not travelling today (Friday) and we're coming back straight after the game but we need to adjust our routines and make it work.

"At the end of the day, we'll be at the ground two hours before and we're playing and that doesn't change so that will be our mentality."

Bellamy says the team had been trying to focus on the Sharks, with whom they shared a fierce rivalry.

While Melbourne opened with a round-one win over Manly, the Sharks rallied late before falling to South Sydney.

Cronulla winger Ronaldo Mulitalo has been cleared of a head knock to take his place, with Josh Dugan - named on the bench - tipped to have another week on the sidelines as he recovers from a knee injury.

Bellamy said his players were on guard for veteran Cronulla halves Shaun Johnson and Chad Townsend, however he was delighted with how his own playmakers, Cameron Munster and Jahrome Hughes, fared in the opening match.

Hughes played six games in the halves at the end of last year, but spent his first full pre-season training at No.7 over summer.

He set up two tries by kicking sweetly for winger Suliasi Vunivalu.

"I really liked what Jahrome did," Bellamy said.

"He came up with some big plays with those kicks but, defensively, he was outstanding.

"He made 30 tackles and then came up with a couple of game-breaking plays at the end of the game.

"That's a really promising game for us - one game doesn't make a season but he's off to a good start."

Meanwhile, Wests Tigers centre Paul Momirovski is set to arrive in Melbourne over the weekend with the historic season-long player swap with Storm hooker Harry Grant finally a done deal.

STATS THAT MATTER:

* Expect a tight one with six of the past eight matches between the teams decided by 10 points or less

* Jubilee Stadium hasn't been a happy hunting ground for the Sharks, only winning 12 of 36 matches there and just two of the past nine

* With 189 games, Wade Graham will become the ninth-most capped Cronulla player, with Melbourne the only team he's never scored a try against.

* Stats: Fox Sports