Halfback Luke Brooks was sent for scans on Sunday night after a sustaining a hamstring injury that compounded a missed opportunity for Wests Tigers to end a week of turmoil and spring an upset on Melbourne.
With interim coach Andrew Webster calling the shots six days after the sacking of Jason Taylor the Tigers led 14-0 against a misfiring Storm only to concede 22 points in 41 minutes in an eight-point defeat.
An apparent hamstring injury suffered by Brooks in the second half further soured an afternoon that began with so much promise. The halfback had hamstring issues in the pre-season and was escorted from the field with 25 minutes remaining on Sunday clutching his hamstring.
"I'm not sure (how serious it is) yet, he is going for scans. But the early stages it looks like a hamstring strain," Webster said.
By then the Tigers were on the back foot, the enthusiasm generated from how they burst out of the blocks muted by belated Melbourne efficiency, the class of Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater enough to get the visitors home even on a day that was far from their best.
Runaway tries in the second half to the Storm's Cheyse Blair and Josh Addo-Carr finished off the Tigers but despite a third defeat of the season Webster said he was proud of the team he has just adopted after a tumultuous lead-in to the match.
"The boys didn't stop trying one bit," Webster said. "They had those long-range tries on us; we were transitioning in the defence and just slackened off for that one play with our energy and it cost us."
The Tigers really should have surged further ahead than they did in a dominant first half. They play only four games a season at Leichhardt Oval these days but never had one been scheduled at a more opportune time. The idea that they are naturally lifted by the intimate and retro surrounds of the inner west sometimes seems overblown. They were thumped, after all, here in the final round last year by Canberra.
But on a bright autumn afternoon that brought out 12,649 to the boutique ground even in the circumstances, it was as if they were energised by the venue as they began life after Taylor.
They were brutal in defence and enterprising with the ball against a flat Melbourne in the first half, hitting the lead via a Mitchell Moses try and then two penalty goals to the five-eighth. When Elijah Taylor ran onto a smart final pass from Brooks in the 27th minute the score was 14-0 and it was one-way traffic.
However, despite enjoying nearly 60 per cent of possession in the first half the Tigers' advantage was only eight at the break after Joel Edwards ducked into a tackle and was left in a bad way in the last minute of the half - he failed a concussion test - and the visitors pounced crucially via Nelson Asofa-Solomona.
A brilliantly executed Smith 40-20 kick after the break led to the Storm edging closer with a set piece finished off by winger Young Tonumaipea and from there they were clinical with Blair and Addo-Carr clinching the result from long range.
Tigers captain Aaron Woods challenged his team to back up the effort next Sunday against St George Illawarra.
"It's easy to get up for these sort of games. It's how we're going to react for next week when it probably dies down a little bit. We've just got to work harder for each other," Wood said.
"You get a few curveballs here and there but that's life, life in general. Not everything is going to go your way. It's how you react and come out of those situations. At the moment we've got a few curveballs coming our way. But it's about how we're going to get the boys out of this situations and how I can lead them. I thought today was OK but we've got to work on that and move to the Dragons next week now."