The third week of the competition starts on Thursday night with a highly anticipated grand final rematch between the Melbourne Storm and North Queensland Cowboys at AAMI Park.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
The home side comes into this fixture having lost a close match to the Wests Tigers 10-8. The Storm were heavy favourites for Billy Slaters 300th game as a player, they still were unable to convert their large amount of possession into points.
The Cowboys were in Brisbane last round taking on the Broncos in their Queensland derby, with a last-minute chance going to the Brisbane side to win 24-20. They looked on top for the majority of the match but some errors and lapses in physical intensity caught them having to play catch up and losing the game.
The Melbourne Storm are unchanged from their defeat to the Wests Tigers, with Felise Kaufusi still sidelined due to a hamstring injury.
The North Queensland side welcomes back five-eighth Michael Morgan from an abdominal strain, pushing Te Maire Martin to the interchange. Coen Hess comes into the starting side for Ethan Lowe moving Corey Jensen to the reserves.
Melbourne Storm off the back of a disappointing outing for Slaters 300th match will have them smarting after chances to win the game throughout went begging. The key players for Melbourne side are their young halves Brodie Croft and Cameron Munster, the pairing are yet to stamp much authority on the side with question marks over their ability to control the game relying heavily on the hooker and captain Cameron Smith. The playmakers for the home side up will be against it with a quality Cowboys side visiting making a crucial kicking game from Croft and a running game generating momentum from Munster important if they are to snatch victory.
The visitors in the Cowboys will look to their big three forwards in Jason Taumalolo and starting props Matt Scott and former Storm player Jordan Mclean to produce yet enough highly explosive and professional performance. All three players for the North Queensland team produced a perfect platform for Johnathan Thurston against the Broncos dominating the middle in the opening and ending stages, they will look to up their intensity further to make sure that their side wins this grand final rematch.
Prediction: Cowboys by 4
The Melbourne Storm have won the last 5 matches against the North Queensland Cowboys including the 2016 Qualifying Final and 2017 Grand Final.
Storm: 1 Billy Slater, 2 Suliasi Vunivalu, 3 Will Chambers, 4 Curtis Scott, 5 Josh Addo-Carr, 6 Cameron Munster, 7 Brodie Croft, 8 Jesse Bromwich, 9 Cameron Smith (c), 10 Nelson Asofa-Solomona, 11 Joe Stimson, 12 Ryan Hoffman, 13 Dale Finucane
Interchange: 14 Tim Glasby, 15 Kenny Bromwich, 16 Christian Welch, 17 Sam Kasiano
Cowboys: 1 Ben Hampton, 2 Kyle Feldt, 3 Justin O’Neill, 4 Javid Bowen, 5 Antonio Winterstein, 6 Michael Morgan, 7 Johnathan Thurston (c), 8 Matthew Scott (c), 9 Jake Granville, 10 Jordan McLean, 11 Gavin Cooper, 12 Coen Hess, 13 Jason Taumalolo
Interchange: 14 Te Maire Martin, 15 John Asiata, 16 Scott Bolton, 17 Ethan Lowe
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Thursday 22nd March
Venue: AAMI Park
WHO WILL WIN?