Michael Chammas July 27, 2012
"It's always hard coming back out of Origin ... I always find it takes a little bit of time to get back into it" ... Queensland and Broncos veteren prop Petero Civoniceva, centre. Photo: Getty Images
THE Melbourne Storm will tonight be out to overcome their State of Origin hangover and end the worst losing streak in Craig Bellamy's coaching career.
Only once in Bellamy's successful decade-long tenure as Storm coach has he seen his side falter with three straight losses, albeit in the year they were stripped of their right to play for points.
Now his charges have slumped to four straight losses and are just two defeats away from equalling the club's longest losing streak set in 2002, the last year the Storm missed out on the finals.
It's no coincidence the Storm, who lost just one game leading into the State of Origin series, have teetered as a result of the mid-season representative period - as have Manly, Brisbane, North Queensland and Cronulla.
The Storm have lost four of their past five games without Billy Slater, who is tonight expected to make his return from a knee injury suffered in Origin II.
After round 11, Melbourne were four points clear on top of the ladder and looked certainties to win the minor premiership. They were the best attacking and defensive team in the competition, averaging 30 points a game, while conceding a miserly 12.
But South Sydney and the Bulldogs have taken over the respective mantles, with the Storm averaging 16.25 points a game since the start of the Origin series, while conceding 18.75 points a game.
The Rabbitohs and Bulldogs, the top-eight teams least affected by Origin, are the big winners out of the representative period.
South Sydney have only had Greg Inglis and David Taylor involved in the campaign, and have won six of their past eight games, while Canterbury, who only had Josh Morris missing, haven't lost a game since the Origin series began in May.
However, the Storm aren't the only team suffering from an Origin hangover. The two other sides most affected by the Origin period - Manly and Brisbane - have also fallen away in the aftermath of a gruelling campaign.
The Origin period has proved to be somewhat of a curse for many of the players involved, with injury and dramatic form lapses crippling several of the game's stars.
Brett Stewart, Greg Bird, Luke Lewis, Jarryd Hayne and Paul Gallen have all been in the casualty ward in recent weeks, while Todd Carney and Mitchell Pearce have dished out below-par performances since going back to their respective clubs.
Carney had arguably his worst game of the season against Canberra last week, missing seven tackles and making three mistakes on a horror afternoon for the Blues five-eighth.
The Maroons haven't got off lightly either, with Slater, Ashley Harrison, Cameron Smith and Justin Hodges missing games with injury, while Greg Inglis will spend some time in the stands following his three-match ban for a shoulder charge on Dean Young.
Manly, who had five players used throughout the series, have dropped from equal third to seventh in the space of two months, losing four of their past seven games, and now in some danger of slipping out of the top eight.
Cronulla have failed to fire without Gallen and have tumbled down the ladder, while the Cowboys have a 4-3 record since the start of the Origin series.
The Broncos have dropped four positions to sixth and their veteran prop, Petero Civoniceva, admitted he hasn't felt the same following Origin and said he may be relegated to the bench to accommodate for the in-form Josh McGuire.
''It's always hard coming back out of Origin,'' Civoniceva said.
''I always find it takes a little bit of time to get back into it. If I am honest, I've got to improve on the football I'm playing, I'm probably a bit down on what I should be.''