The Melbourne Storm will host the Parramatta Eels in Round 23, in an interesting clash, the Storm needing to get back on the winning list, still a chance of the minor-premiership, while the Eels need to continue their recent winning form to avoid the wooden spoon.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
The Storm have been in an unusual form slump, losing their past 2 games, against the Rabbitohs and Sharks. This is not the Storm we all know. This Champion team knows how to win, and if any team is to get itself back on track, its the Storm.
In contrast to the Storms’ form, the Eels have won their past 2 games, showing some rare good form this year, lead by Jarryd Hayne. Their crushing win over the Dragons last week 40-4 was their best game this season.
Jahrome Hughes is out of the Storm team, with Brodie Croft to start at halfback in jersey No.21. Halfback Hughes suffered a knee injury against the Sharks last week. Ryan Hoffman’s season and career looks all but over, meaning Stimson goes into the second row and Cheyse Blair comes into the squad. Bellamy confirmed there were up to five who are battling injuries from last week’s loss to Cronulla. “Brandon Smith, Jahrome Hughes has a little bit of a knee injury, a couple of our forwards in that boat as well,” he said.
Tim Mannah replaces Kane Evans in the front row while Oregon Kaufusi is named to debut off the bench in place of Will Smith. Cameron King has overcome a knee injury and could force his way into the line-up if Brad Arthur opts for a second hooking option.
The last time the Storm and Eels met was in the preliminary final last season, with the Storm managing an 18-16 win on their way to the premiership. Since then these teams have had vastly different seasons, with the Storm still in premiership contention, while the Eels have dropped to the bottom of the ladder fighting to stay away from the dreaded wooden spoon.
The past month has seen the Eels win 3 out of 4 games, with their only loss coming against the Rabbitohs where they were leading for the majority of the game. Last week on the back of Jarryd Haynes hat-trick, the Eels smashed the Dragons playing the free-flowing footy which took them to the preliminary finals last season.
The Storm made some uncharacteristic errors last week, their senior players also contributing. Coach Bellamy showed concern after the game, stating that the Storm were not showing the hunger they usually show. Poor ball control and game management are usually the corner stones to the Storms winning form.
Cameron Smith will need to step up and lead the Storm out of this mini-slump, no other player in this competition can control a game like the Storm Captain.
The last time the Storm lost 3 in a row was in 2015 during the Origin period.
Head-to-head: Played 33; Storm 20 wins, Eels 13 wins
Previous result: Storm won 18-16 at AAMI Park Preliminary Final 2017
Points per game: Storm 23.3; Eels 16.9
Points conceded per game: Storm 15.7; Eels 21
1 Billy Slater, 2 Suliasi Vunivalu, 3 Will Chambers, 4 Curtis Scott, 5 Josh Addo-Carr, 6 Cameron Munster, 21 Brodie Croft, 8 Jesse Bromwich, 9 Cameron Smith (c), 10 Nelson Asofa-Solomona, 11 Felise Kaufusi, 12 Joe Stimson, 13 Dale Finucane Interchange: 14 Cheyse Blair, 15 Tim Glasby, 16 Christian Welch, 17 Kenny Bromwich
1 Corey Norman, Jarryd Hayne, 3 Michael Jennings, 4 Clint Gutherson (c), 5 George Jennings, 6 Jaeman Salmon, 7 Mitchell Moses, 8 Siosaia Vave, 9 Reed Mahoney, 10 Tim Mannah (c), 11 Marata Niukore, 12 Tepai Moeroa, 13 Nathan Brown Interchange: 14 Oregon Kaufusi, 15 Peni Terepo, 16 David Gower, 17 Ray Stone
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Friday 17th August
Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne
WHO WILL WIN?
The Storm are a champion team, they will bounce back and win. Storm by 4.