Top of the table Melbourne take on a struggling Canberra who look to keep their faint finals hopes alive.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
The Storm are rolling. They’re looking to make it 8 wins in a row, with only three losses since April against Manly in round 11, the Dragons in round 9 and the Tigers in round 5.
It would be unfair to deny that the Raiders have been unlucky this season with a lot of outside factors costing them a few wins, but they have given up too many close losses, with seven of their losses this year by 6 points or less.
No major changes for the Storm, with the only notable one being Dale Finucane starting at lock and Kenny Bromwich moving back to the bench. It seems like Jahrome Hughes has locked up the number seven jersey with some great performances this year. He’s a great fullback, but with Slater there for the rest of the season and some question marks around Brodie Croft, Hughes seems like it’s his jersey to lose.
Some changes for the Raiders, with Joe Tapine returning and Sia Soliola dropping back to the bench. Jarrod Croker is out for the season, Aidan Sezer (hamstring) and Shannon Boyd (calf) are still a week or two away and Jack Wighton has been stood down until at least the finals series (assuming they make the finals). Nick Cotric has been named to start in the centres but don’t be surprised if you see him in a roaming role or switching with Brad Abbey at fullback.
While these two sides haven’t played each other this season, Canberra have struggled against the top sides this season, with their last six losses all coming from top 8 teams, in fact every single win from the Raiders this season has been against bottom 8 teams.
On the other side of the field, Melbourne have only dropped five games all year and are on a hot streak winning the last seven in a row, including a 52-30 game of the year candidate against the Dragons a few weeks ago. They are starting to click into gear and are very keen to go back-to-back to send Billy Slater off the right way. With Cam Smith fresh from a break over Origin they will be hard to stop.
The biggest positional matchup is unsurprisingly in the hookers. Cam Smith is arguably the greatest hooker to ever play the game, and he’s up against English hooker Josh Hodgson, who has transformed the Raiders since returning from injury. Hodgson is a massive piece of the Raiders team and if they have any chance against a rampaging Storm he will need to be at his best.
The Storm have won five of their last six against the Raiders.
Storm: 1 Billy Slater, 2 Suliasi Vunivalu, 3 Will Chambers, 4 Curtis Scott, 5 Josh Addo-Carr, 6 Cameron Munster, 7 Jahrome Hughes, 8 Jesse Bromwich, 9 Cameron Smith (c), 10 Nelson Asofa-Solomona, 11 Felise Kaufusi, 12 Ryan Hoffman, 13 Dale Finucane Interchange: 14 Kenny Bromwich, 15 Tim Glasby, 16 Christian Welch, 17 Joe Stimson
1 Brad Abbey, 2 Michael Oldfield, 3 Nick Cotric, 4 Joseph Leilua, 5 Jordan Rapana, 6 Blake Austin, 7 Sam Williams, 8 Dunamis Lui, 9 Josh Hodgson (c), 10 Junior Paulo, 11 Joseph Tapine, 12 Elliott Whitehead, 13 Josh Papalii Interchange: 14 Liam Knight, 15 Luke Bateman, 16 Siliva Havili, 17 Iosia Soliola
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Saturday 28th July
Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne
Referee: Adam Gee (head), Ziggy Przeklasa-Adamski (pocket), Kasey Badger (touch), Rohan Best (touch), Ben Galea (video ref), Steve Chiddy (senior review official)
WHO WILL WIN?
Storm by 20