Slater: Storm stuck in the past
Melbourne veteran Billy Slater says the Storm are "stuck in 2017" and have been too slow to adjust to the NRL's crackdown on ruck infringements.
The NRL champions, who have always pushed the boundaries around the ruck, appear to be hardest hit by the NRL edict for referees to clamp down on holding down players, correct play-the-balls and being off-side.
The Storm have incurred three more penalties - 45 in four rounds - than any other NRL club, with their skipper Cameron Smith the most penalised player in the competition.
"We are just giving away far too many penalties," Slater said on Monday.
"The interpretation has changed this year and we're probably still stuck in 2017 and we need to catch up." Compounding their frustration, Melbourne made 15 errors in their 14-4 defeat by Cronulla on Friday night and sit only behind the Sydney Roosters for the most handling errors.
That comes on top of the 16 they made in their round two loss to West Tigers - their highest in a game since 2013 - whom they meet again on Saturday in Auckland.
Melbourne conducted a lengthy review of the Sharks match on Monday morning, with Slater saying their ball control and discipline will be a major focus this week.
"It's something that we definitely need to improve on - that's a major concern for us and something we are certainly going to be working on this week," Slater said.
"It's not any one person, it's collectively as a team, so we need to take better care with the football." Slater said attacking sides should be able to take advantage of referees tightening the 10m rule, but the Storm hadn't been able to because of their poor ball control.
"We had a few opportunities on Friday night and we didn't take advantage," he said.
"It's disappointing to go through 80 minutes without scoring a try."
Their mission against the in-form Tigers got tougher with news damaging lock Dale Finucane will be sidelined for at least a month with a fractured thumb. They are also likely to lose Test centre Will Chambers to suspension, with Young Tonumaipea set to come into the squad.
Chambers is yet to decide if he will challenge the citing for a grapple tackle.
"Young has been 18th man and played a really good game for our feeder squad, I think he scored three tries so he's quite an experienced guy who could slip straight in if Will is missing for a couple of weeks," Slater said.