It might be easier said than done but Cronulla halfback Chad Townsend says they have a plan to shut down Melbourne captain Cameron Smith in Friday night's NRL preliminary final at AAMI Park.

The two sides are fighting for a spot in next week's grand final and will resume their bitter rivalry which has only grown in intensity since the Sharks beat the Storm to win their maiden premiership in 2016.

There's a bit extra at stake for both teams with Melbourne looking to give retiring club greats Billy Slater and Ryan Hoffman a fond farewell in their last home game, while veteran second rower Luke Lewis will also hang up the boots at the end of Cronulla's campaign.

The visitors are without injured co-captain Wade Graham (knee) and senior leader Paul Gallen (ankle) is also in doubt, but the Sharks are full of confidence having beaten Melbourne twice already this year.


And with Andrew Fifita, Matt Prior and Aaron Woods also among their forward rotation, Townsend insists Cronulla have better artillery and openly admits they plan on targeting the Storm through the middle of the field.

"We love that grinding game and that's what suits our team," said Townsend.

"I truly believe we've got the best forward pack in the competition and when they go forward it makes my job and our outside backs' job a lot easier.

"We love that type of game and we'll try to bring that on Friday night."

The Storm pack are no lightweights however, with the likes of Kiwi front rowers Jesse Bromwich and Nelson Asofa-Solomona, and back rower Felise Kaufusi providing plenty of size and skill, and Smith steering the ship from dummy half.

This season the reigning premiers have looked to spread the ball wide early in sets while the former Australian test captain never misses an opportunity to kick downtown to put the pressure back on the opposition.

Townsend predicts the Storm will do their best to avoid a forward battle, but is confident Cronulla have the right game plan to minimise Smith's influence.

The Sharks' tendency to park both markers side by side illegally rather than behind each other might assist in this area as a deterrent to any plays out of dummy half.

"He's probably the best player in the game at the moment and he's very crafty out of dummy half," said the former Warriors playmaker.

"For us it's about stopping his kicking game. He loves to get out of dummy half and kick early on tackle counts and try and pin you in corners, so we've got to put some pressure on him there. That comes from winning the ruck and winning the play the ball.

"If we can nullify him in that area, that's going to be a plus for us."

The Storm also welcome the return of fiery centre Will Chambers from his second suspension of the year, and many are predicting fireworks will erupt with both sides having a clear dislike for the other.

"I wouldn't say we hate each other but it's definitely a rivalry," said Townsend.

"We've played each other in some big games over the last few years and it's always gone down to the wire and been a good contest.

"That's what you get when you have two quality teams coming up against each other and this week won't be any different."