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Storm coach Ryles defends his skipper

Melbourne skipper Cameron Smith says he knew that this Storm NRL side was destined for success.
Coach Ryles defends Smith
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Melbourne assistant coach Jason Ryles has stood up for Storm skipper Cameron Smith, who has been accused of dirty play during their NRL preliminary final win over Canberra.

Ahead of Sunday's grand final against Cronulla, Smith has come under fire for appearing to knee Raiders skipper Jason Croker's injured leg and pushing him over following a Storm try late in in the first half.

The incident wasn't deemed worthy of any action by the match review committee with Ryles saying that Melbourne were the team that others loved to hate, particularly during the NRL finals.

That has gone up a notch with the ANZ Stadium decider being billed as a state against state showdown.

"You can make a lot out of a still shot," Ryles said of a newspaper photograph of the collision.

"It's the same thing, different year for the Storm.

"When I was playing the same thing happened and now I'm coaching four or five years later it's still happening so we certainly don't read into it."

The former Kangaroos prop, who played two years for Melbourne before his retirement, didn't believe Smith was a protected species.

He said as the Australian captain Smith had earnt the respect of referees.

"He's obviously a quality player and he's the Test captain and the referees have a lot of respect for him and he has respect for the referees.

"If I was the referee and the Test captain came up to me and spoke politely than I would speak to him and I think that's basically all he does."

Since Ryles took over as forwards coach this season the Storm have taken their game to a new level.

But he was quick to deflect his own efforts, making special mention of the improvement from lock Dale Finucane and prop Jordan McLean, and said that was a key to Melbourne's success.

"Probably the biggest thing for Jordan this season is that he had a really solid pre-season which was unbroken with injury," Ryles said.

"That consistency in the pre-season seems to be showing through in the season that he's having."

Ryles heart-breakingly sat out Melbourne's 2012 grand final triumph over the Bulldogs due to a hamstring injury.

He said being a part of this campaign was just as special.

"It still meant a lot in 2012 winning the grand final and this would as well," he said.

"There's a lot of work that goes into it during the season culminating in this weekend and it's an honour and a privilege to be part of it."

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