Both the Storm and Sea Eagles would be looking forward to moving on from last week, albeit for different reasons. As such, both will come out with their own points to prove this Sunday afternoon in a game that promises to be entertaining if nothing else.
LAST TIME OUT
It will always be remembered as the game where Billy Slater got knocked into next week, whilst losing memory of the fortnight before, according to reports from the Storm medico’s. The end result was almost lost in all of the drama involving Sia Soliola’s tackle and Cameron Smith’s pec injury. But the truth is, the Storm machine kept on going on, even after losing their captain and their fullback. With the score slightly in Melbourne’s favour at halftime, the Storm could have easily folded after losing Cameron Smith in the early minutes of the second half, and then losing Slater not long after. Instead, they kicked on to do much more than just hanging on for the win by scoring more points in the second half than in the first. The strong mentality of the team as a whole cannot be questioned.
The Sea Eagles came into their game against St George-Illawarra with key personnel out of the squad. They also walked into an absolute ambush led by Dragons halfback Gareth Widdop. The game was as good as over at halftime with the rampant Dragons leaving the Sea Eagles with a monumental 30-point deficit to overcome. Manly came out firing in the second half, but it was a momentary ray of hope as the Dragons regained the upper hand, running away with the game. The late changes to the team could be blamed, but considering Manly’s form of late, perhaps this performance was due? After all they had been winning, but not winning well. This may have been the loss they needed. Or are there other issues?
With Slater a definite out, and Smith battling to be fit for his 350th NRL match, the weight of responsibility falls squarely on the shoulders of halfback Cooper Cronk. This won’t be an issue. Cronk has been there and done that, and there is also the fact that he has taken everything on this season with an even more intense focus considering that this could potentially be his last in the NRL. Even if Smith does play, there are no guarantees that his injury will go the distance in this game. Therefore, Cronk will be the man that all of his teammates will be looking to as the game progresses. But then, as we’ve alluded to, there isn’t anything new in that regard.
Another man that his teammates will be looking at to lead them onto victory is Manly half and captain Daly Cherry-Evans. He and coach, Trent Barrett, will be drumming into his players that last week against the Dragons wasn’t just unacceptable, it was downright embarrassing. Any time where an opposition cracks the half century against you should be cause for you partake in some intense introspection. It is at times like this that the true worth of a good captain is revealed. The great ones were always able to right the ship despite the odds. DCE needs to show his players that he knows the way forward, and leads them there.
Difficult game to really put your finger on as Manly have shown that they are better than what they showed in Wollongong last week. The Storm, despite being the competition front runners, will be without Slater but more importantly Smith as well. This levels the playing field significantly. However, we aren’t at Brookvale for this one and the Storm are still the Storm as they proved in Canberra last week. For a team that seemed to be so far off the pace last week, it is difficult to see Manly get the better of Melbourne in this game. The Sea Eagles just seem to have too much to improve on in just a week.
Storm by 6
Storm v Sea Eagles, Sunday 30 July, 2.00pm at AAMI Park
Storm: 1. Cameron Munster 2. Suliasi Vunivalu 3. William Chambers 4. Curtis Scott 5. Josh Addo-Carr 6. Ryley Jacks 7. Cooper Cronk 8. Jesse Bromwich 9. Cameron Smith 10. Tim Glasby 11. Felise Kaufusi 12. Joe Stimson 13. Dale Finucane 14. Nelson Asofa-Solomona 15. Kenneath Bromwich 16. Nate Myles 17. Mark Nicholls 18. Young Tonumaipea 19. Jahrome Hughes 20. Slade Griffin 21. Jordan McLean
Sea Eagles: 1. Tom Trbojevic 2. Matthew Wright 3. Dylan Walker 4. Brian Kelly 5. Akuila Uate 6. Blake Green 7. Daly Cherry-Evans 8. Brenton Lawrence 9. Apisai Koroisau 10. Martin Taupau 11. Frank Winterstein 12. Shaun Lane 13. Jake Trbojevic 14. Cameron Cullen 15. Lloyd Perrett 16. Lewis Brown 17. Addin Fonua-blake 18. Darcy Lussick 19. Jarrad Kennedy 20. Brad Parker 21. Jonathan Wright