Saturday March 15 at 5:30pm Sydney (4:30pm Brisbane) at AAMI Park
Storm: 1 Billy Slater 2 Sisa Waqa 3 Will Chambers 4 Mahe Fonua 5 Young Tonumaipea 6 Ben Hampton 7 Cooper Cronk 8 Jesse Bromwich 9 Cameron Smith (c) 10 Bryan Norrie 11 Kevin Proctor 12 Ryan Hoffman 13 Ryan Hinchcliffe Interchange 14 Kenny Bromwich 15 Tohu Harris 16 Jordan McLean 17 George Rose 18 Ben Roberts
Panthers remain unchanged… but late changes?
As you would expect after last week’s home win over Newcastle, Ivan Cleary has made no changes for this week’s trip to Newcastle.
It’s been documented that Tim Grant and Jamal Idris are being ‘rested’. Both are expected to travel to Melbourne. Could they be there to provide support to the boys, or will they be late starters?
Spoiling Cameron Smith’s party
It’s all about Cameron Smith this week. He put pen to paper for another four years that will see him play past his 35th birthday. Smith also breaks the record for the most capped Storm player, leading his side out in game 263.
Cooper Cronk is set to play after missing the Storm’s come from behind win at Brookvale last weekend. Ben Roberts is on standby if Cronk isn’t fit.
Smith, Cronk and Billy Slater once again are the backbone of the side. Panther fans may not be as familiar with Mahe Fonua, Ben Hampton, or Young Tonumaipea. Fonua is strong and dangerous out wide. Tonumaipea is an up and coming winger, replacing Matt Duffie who’s on the long-term injury list. Ben Hampton finally gets his chance to play regular top grade football, following the move of Gareth Widdop to the Dragons.
A formidable side with plenty of experience.
Battling the Melbourne demons
You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to know that Penrith’s record in Melbourne is horrible. Our last win was on June 18, 2005 when Penrith won 28-14.
PENRITH 28 (Preston Campbell, Brett Howland, Luke Lewis, Luke Priddis, Luke Swain tries; Preston Campbell 4 goals) defeated MELBOURNE 14 (Steve Bell, Matt Geyer, Matt King tries; Matt Orford goal) at Olympic Park.
The only other win against the Storm in Melbourne was on May 27, 2000 when the Panthers won 23-20.
PENRITH 23 (Shane Elford 2, Matt Adamson, Scott Sattler tries; Chris Hicks 3 goals; Matt Rodwell field goal) defeated MELBOURNE 20 (Brett Kimmorley, Matt Rua, Brad Watts, Danny Williams tries; Tasesa Lavea 4 goals) at Olympic Park.
Last outing Penrith got the money, breaking an eleven game winning streak by the Storm head-to-head in a hard fought 12-10 victory.
This playing unit is much stronger than those who’ve travelled to Melbourne and come away on the wrong side of the scoreboard. It’s time for the hoodoo to be broken.
How the game could be played out
Previous encounters suggest that Melbourne will try to intimidate Penrith straight away to mentally weaken their opponent, take command and pile on the points.
This time around expect a more physical affair early. Two pretty good forward packs on show. Bromwich, Smith, Proctor and Hoffman for the Storm; Kite, Kingston and Taylor for the Panthers.
Penrith must keep the Storm from quick play the balls because I’m almost certain they will do the same too.
The Storm will be keen for Penrith to play up the middle all day to protect the inexperienced flankers Fonua and Tonumaipea. This could be an interesting afternoon for Josh Mansour and Dean Whare. Penrith should win the battle out on that side of the field.
Expect the old-firm in Slater, Smith and Cronk to be up to their tricks and trying to catch Penrith out with the inside ball.
What makes Penrith’s trip to Melbourne a better prospect this time around is Jamie Soward’s ability to kick long and into the corners.
Each side has a contrasting bench. Penrith have gone lightweight with Segeyaro and Peachey the potential game-breakers. Melbourne have packed their bench with forwards.
Time to end the drought. A good win against the Knights last week with room for improvement. Wally and Soward in the halves; a confident Mansour in good form last weekend; Matty Moylan and Dave Simmons safe at the back. Segeyaro is the X-factor off the bench and hopefully he’ll have a better impact this week. But could Tyrone Peachey make a name for himself in this game? Very good last week in victory. And who can forget the two hit-men! Docker and Plum… bring it on!