State of Origin will start soon, bringing with it only bad news for NRL club Melbourne.
The Storm’s three most influential players Cameron Smith, Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk will link up with Queensland next week.
Will Chambers is also expected to represent the Maroons in all three games of the mid-week series, further hurting the Storm’s chances of staying near the top of the ladder.
Origin has coincided with plenty of mid-season Storm slumps in recent years.
Veteran Ryan Hinchcliffe hopes 2015 will be different, pointing to the off-season arrival of Wigan five-eighth Blake Green and Canterbury lock Dale Finucane plus the improvement of many inexperienced teammates.
“Origin doesn’t just take out our senior players, it takes away our key playmakers,” Hinchcliffe told AAP.
“Do that to any side and it’s obviously going to have a huge effect, but you just deal with it.
“With the new players we’ve got this year, hopefully we’re in a bit better position to handle it compared to previous years.
“Our squad is a fair bit stronger now compared to last year … we’ll have a bit more experience in the side.”
Hinchcliffe and Finucane both represented Country in the recent representative match in Wagga Wagga.
Injury or suspension could pave the way for either forward to make their Origin debuts this year.
“I loved playing for Country and I’d absolutely love to play for NSW, but it’s not something I spend much time thinking about,” said Hinchcliffe, who has been consistent performer for the Storm since 2009.
Finucane, who is 23 and enjoying a breakthrough season under the tutelage of Craig Bellamy, felt he had a “lot more development to do” before contemplating an Origin call-up.
Saturday’s clash with South Sydney at AAMI Park is Melbourne’s last chance to post a win before the `Big Three’ of Smith, Slater and Cronk head north for Origin.
Hinchcliffe noted his team weren’t looking any further ahead than the Rabbitohs, but noted “early wins are important for every club”.
“It’s really important for our club, because of the load that comes with Origin,” he said.
“South Sydney have got class right across the paddock and it’ll be a great chance to test ourselves against one of the best sides in the competition.”