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NRL GRAND FINAL QUALIFIER: Melbourne Storm vs Brisbane Broncos

The Melbourne Storm have their hands full as they take on a highly confident Brisbane Broncos – for a spot in the 2017 NRL Grand Final – at AAMI Park this Friday night.

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Last Time Out

The Melbourne Storm were heavily tested by a highly-competitive Parramatta Eels in their narrow 18-16 victory in finals week one. The Storm trailed Parramatta 10-4 at half-time but then took complete control of the game. The Kenny Bromwich try will be one for the ages as Melbourne were rewarded for being the better team in the second half and earned themselves a week off.

An excellent defensive performance from the Brisbane Broncos allowed them to get the better of a trying Penrith Panthers 13-6. The Broncos were asked to defend their own goal line for lengthy periods and only had one man left on their bench at full-time. It was a victory filled with determination and grit of the highest regard, which is why they meet the premiership favourites this Friday night.

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Team Changes

Melbourne will field the same side that took on Parramatta two weeks ago and have no injury concerns in their 21-man squad.

Darius Boyd returns from his hamstring injury, Kodi Nikorima moves to halfback meaning Benji Marshall will start from the bench. Tevita Pangai Jr returns to the bench replacing Jai Arrow. David Mead will be on standby for Corey Oates who will have to prove his fitness after his sickening collision with teammate Anthony Milford forced him from the field with concussion last weekend.

The Two Coaches

It’s not surprising that Craig Bellamy and Wayne Bennett find themselves within one victory from the grand final. Bennett and Bellamy are easily ranked right up there with some of the greatest coaches in rugby league history.

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It’s been an interesting year for Bennett who was criticised earlier in the year, suggesting that 2017 could mark the beginning of the end. But the seven-time premiership-winning coach proved his critics wrong. The injection of Benji Marshall into the side as well as shifting Ben Hunt from halfback to dummy half paved the way for Brisbane to be more creative and innovative in their football. There are still patches of the old Bennett philosophy of rugby league, which was clearly seen in their victory against Penrith last week. That victory was built upon controlling the game and tiring the opposition into making mistakes.

Craig Bellamy has yet again got his squad to be the epitome of success. Each player for the Storm does their bit to get their side across the line each week. His ability to turn an average footballer into a superstar just excites the Storm’s fanbase. His side will definitely be itching to win so they can get a chance to claim their first premiership since 2012.

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Melbourne are favourites but it won’t be an easy task knocking off the Brisbane Broncos. The Storm are up against a team that has certainly got it together in defence. Points won’t come easy for either side. The game will be won on two principles: who can outmuscle the opposition and win the battle of the forwards; the second is ball control. If Brisbane give Melbourne easy inroads into their territory by coughing up possession then the Storm will make them pay. In a low-scoring affair the Storm should achieve their second consecutive grand final appearance.

Storm by six

Melbourne Storm vs Brisbane Broncos, Friday 22 September, 7:50PM AAMI Park

1. Billy Slater 2. Suilasi Vunivalu 3. Will Chambers 4.Curtis Scott 5. Josh Addo-Car 6. Cameron Munster 7.Cooper Cronk 8.Jesse Bromwich 9. Cameron Smith 10. Jordan McLean 11. Felise Kaufasi, 12. Tohu Harris 13. Dale Finaunce Interchange: 14. Kenneath Bromwich 15. Tim Glasby 16. Nelson Asofa-Solomona 17. Slade Griffin, Reserves: 18. Jahrome Hughes 19. Robbie Rochow 20. Joe Stimson 21. Young Tomumaipea

Broncos: 1. Darius Boyd 2. Corey Oates 3. James Roberts 4.Tautau Moga 5. Jordan Kahu 6. Anthony Milford 7.Kodi Nikorima 8.Sam Thaiday 9. Ben Hunt 10. Adam Blair 11. Alex Glenn 12. Matt Gillett 13. Josh McGuire Interchange: 14. Benji Marshall 15. Tevita Pangai Juinor 16. Joe Ofahengaue 17. Herman Ese’ese Reserves: 18. David Mead 19. Jai Arrow 20. Jaydn Su’A 21. Jamayne Isaako

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