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Storm wary of desperate Dragons
Melissa Woods
10:31 AEST Thu Jul 26 2012
Melbourne Storm forward Ryan Hoffman.
Forward Ryan Hoffman says the Storm are bracing themselves for a desperate Dragons outfit on Friday.

Veteran Melbourne campaigner Ryan Hoffman says the Storm are bracing themselves for a desperate Dragons outfit trying to break into the NRL top eight.

Not that the Storm aren't keen to find some form themselves in the Friday night clash at Wollongong's WIN Stadium after four successive losses that has seen them surrender the competition lead.

St George Illawarra languish in a log-jam in 13th position however they are only two points behind the eighth-placed Wests Tigers.

Another loss will be a nail in their finals hopes of making the finals.

"They're a tough team and they're obviously hurting a bit from their loss the other night (to Souths)," said Hoffman, who returned to Melbourne this season after a year away playing with Wigan.

"Both teams really want to get back into some form."

Star fullback Billy Slater has been named to make his long-awaited return from a knee injury, while centres Will Chambers (blood disorder) and Dane Nielsen (biceps) will be better for having a run in their shock loss to Parramatta.

Prop Jason Ryles, one of their best against the Eels will return for the first time in Storm colours to his home town, after playing with the Dragons for nine years.

Hoffman says the Storm feel they've still got plenty of time to play their way out of their rut ahead of the NRL finals, however they need to be start moving back in the right direction.

He said the team knew they had the talent to turn things around.

"It's uncharted territory at the moment for us but we know we've got the capabilities to get ourselves out of it," he said.

"You don't go from a really good football team to a poor football team overnight.

"We know we've still got a quality football team."

"We've got six weeks until the finals and we know in that time we'll get ourselves back on track."

While the Storm are relishing having some Slater spark in their backline, the Dragons have lost centre Matt Cooper for three weeks with a hamstring complaint.

His place has been taken by utility Beau Scott.

"It's a shame about Coops because he was starting to run into a bit of form," said Dragons coach Steve Price.

They have named lock Dean Young, who was heavily concussed by a shoulder charge from Souths Greg Inglis, in an extended 18-man squad but the 28-year-old is keen to play.

"He's got no headaches which is quite positive for him," said Price.

"He's upbeat and getting around at training and really looking forward to this week's game if he gets the green light."

Price said the team had identified their poor ball control as the area they needed to improve to stop Melbourne.

"We gave Souths cheap field position by easy turnovers at crucial parts of the field and couldn't mount any pressure," he said

"That's an area we really need to work hard on against the Storm."

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