Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy has moved to calm simmering tensions between his club and NRL frontrunners Penrith before their heavyweight clash on Thursday night.
The Panthers can wrap up the minor premiership with three rounds remaining with a victory at BlueBet Stadium while the Storm need to keep winning to remain inside the top four.
Melbourne owner Matt Tripp threw a grenade into the Penrith camp this week when he spoke of the "arrogance" of the Panthers, who have taken over from the Storm as the benchmark club.
That was in response to claims by Penrith deputy chairman and club great Greg Alexander that most of the NRL's ugly wrestling tactics originated out of Melbourne.
But Bellamy only had good things to say about the runaway leaders, who were able to see off Canberra last round despite missing star halves Nathan Cleary (suspension) and Jarome Luai (knee).
The Storm themselves will be without halfback Jahrome Hughes (shoulder), with Cooper Johns in the No.7 jersey alongside Cameron Munster.
"They've obviously been the dominant side the last few years and a lot of that would have come from a lot of work and a lot of planning in the years before to build their depth up," Bellamy said on Wednesday.
"They've got a lot of young kids coming through that are doing a great job for them."
Panthers coach Ivan Cleary called Tripp's comments "unfair" and said Alexander's opinion was personal rather than one shared by his club.
"I think if anyone's able to have an opinion, it's Brandy (Alexander), and I think most of his opinions are spot on but that was his opinion in a completely different role (from his duties with the Panthers)," Cleary said on Wednesday.
"I don't think it's fair for everyone else at our club to be labelled what we were but these things happen."
He denied there was any arrogance within the ranks of the Panthers.
"I don't know why people say it, all I can say is that I don't believe it's true," Cleary added.
"The consistency we've shown over the last three years, I don't think there's any way you can do that if you're disrespectful or arrogant."
Melbourne have been able to arrest a four-game losing streak but their defence still looked vulnerable in last round's 32-14 win over last-placed Gold Coast.
That won't be helped by the loss of Origin veteran Felise Kaufusi, who will miss the game after the death of his father.
They have fullback Nick Meaney returning from a head knock and centre Justin Olam from COVID-19 while the Panthers have named Viliame Kikau on the bench after his hip injury.
Penrith winger Taylan May could be scratched from the team list on game day after wearing a sling at training on Tuesday.
The Panthers told AAP May had injured his shoulder and was in serious doubt, but his injury is not expected to be long-term.
Australian Associated Press
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