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Storm NRL sledging won't worry Paul Gallen

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 7/06/2017 Scott Bailey

Cronulla NRL coach Shane Flanagan admits a number of players in the Cronulla and Melbourne teams don't like each other, ahead of their grand final rematch.

Their last clash - in Melbourne in round six - was one of the fieriest of the season and Thursday night's clash at Southern Cross Group Stadium is expected to be no different.

During the brutal 11-2 Sharks win in April, the game reached boiling point when in-form veteran Paul Gallen and Wade Graham were reportedly labelled "drug cheats" by a Storm player, an apparent reference to the Cronulla supplements scandal.

Flanagan suggested on Wednesday any repeat sledging would only spur the former NSW Origin captain Gallen to greater heights in the top-of-the-table clash.

"Gal is a big man," Flanagan said.

"I'm sure he's copped plenty of that - probably worse.

"If they want to come and sledge us, I'm sure Gal will handle that."

The rivalry between Melbourne and Cronulla has grown over recent seasons.

Aside from last year's grand final, the two teams have strong representation in the NSW and Queensland Origin teams.

"There's a few players who dislike each other," Flanagan said.

"As a club playing in a grand final against each other, there's always going to be some history there.

"Our players are excited by that challenge."

The clash is anticipated to be another torrid battle with wet weather hitting Sydney.

Storm coach Craig Bellamy will make a call on the availability of halfback Cooper Cronk and centre Will Chambers close to kickoff. Wednesday's training session was their first since Friday's 40-12 flogging of Newcastle.

The Sharks' Origin players are fresh after coming off last week's bye, but they will still be without bench hooker James Segeyaro (arm) despite him being named in the 21.

The two teams are first and second in the league defensively, but also give away the equal-most penalties with 90 each already this season.

Fullbacks Valentine Holmes and Billy Slater are in contention for Queensland Origin call-up, while props Andrew Fifita and Jesse Bromwich will clash for the first time since the Anzac Test.

But Bellamy said his side weren't seeking retribution from last year's 14-12 grand final loss.

"It's a round-14 game against Cronulla," Bellamy said.

"Whatever happens in the last game or this game, we can't change the result of the grand final unfortunately."

STATS THAT MATTER:

* Cronulla have the best defence in 2017, conceding 154 points. Melbourne are ranked second with 177

* Both teams have given away 90 penalties this year, the most in the NRL

* Cronulla have beaten Melbourne in three of the past four matches, but have not scored above 14 in any of them

Source: Fox Sports Stats

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