The Storm can lock up the minor premiership for the third consecutive year as they face the Panthers at AAMI Park.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
After rare back to back losses, the Storm took care of the Eels 20-4 and edged out a narrow win against the Titans 10-8. The Storm found it tough against a resilient Gold Coast side who were strong on defence for most of the game except when it mattered. A solo effort from Munster in the 58th minute got them the win after he skipped across the field and busted through some atrocious tackling attempts to score.
They did it despite missing plenty of first choice starters like Chambers, Vunivalu and Asofa-Solomona.
The Panthers had been on a streak of miraculous comebacks but eventually their luck ran out as Newcastle put in a season best performance to down them 20-12 in Round 23. Last week wasn’t any better as they were handily beaten 36-16 by the Warriors. David Fusitu’a carved up their left edge defence, nabbing a hat-trick.
Without James Maloney the Panthers have struggled and the dismissal of Griffin has seemingly changed nothing. In fact things may have got worse.
No changes. Ryan Hoffman has been named as 18th man, likely as a token gesture rather than any realistic chance he’ll play.
The Panthers welcome back James Maloney after a 2 match absence. Tyrone Peachey shifts to centre in place of Dean Whare who is out with a broken arm.
Nobody in the league misses more tackles than him but James Maloney is an important inclusion for the Panthers. He needs to have a great game and not throw any intercept passes to the opposition if the Panthers are to have any chance of winning.
Without his experience and composure under pressure, their attack has suffered in recent weeks and they’re not going to defend their way to victory against Storm. They need to score a lot of points and it’ll come through him.
Trying to defend against the Storm is always a difficult task where Billy Slater is concerned. At one of his last matches at AAMI Park he’ll be out to wreak havoc through the middle and on the edges. He’ll quickly identify any weaknesses in the defensive line and exploit them to their fullest. If he isn’t contained, he’ll likely be setting up a try or two and maybe scoring one himself.
Panthers back 5 against the Storm coming out of their own end. The Panthers have some strong metre eaters like Mansour and Watene-Zelezniak at the back. They’ll have the responsibility of getting their team out of trouble on kick returns and set restarts. If they’re not making good metres then the Storm are just going to shut the whole team down.
The Panthers have lost their last 6 matches against the Storm and they haven’t beaten them since 2013.
1 Billy Slater, 2 Justin Olam, 3 Cheyse Blair, 4 Curtis Scott, 5 Josh Addo-Carr, 6 Cameron Munster, 7 Brodie Croft, 8 Jesse Bromwich, 9 Cameron Smith (c), 10 Tim Glasby, 11 Felise Kaufusi, 12 Joe Stimson, 13 Dale Finucane
Interchange: 14 Kenny Bromwich, 15 Christian Welch, 16 Tui Kamakamica, 17 Sam Kasiano
Reserves: 18 Ryan Hoffman, 19 Jahrome Hughes, 20 Albert Vete, 21 Ryley Jacks
1 Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, 2 Josh Mansour, 3 Waqa Blake, 4 Tyrone Peachey, 5 Christian Crichton, 6 James Maloney, 7 Nathan Cleary, 8 Trent Merrin 9 Wayde Egan, 10 Reagan Campbell-Gillard, 11 Villame Kikau, 12 Isaah Yeo, 13 James Fisher-Harris
Interchange: 14 Tyrone May, 15 Moses Leota, 16 Corey Harawira-Naera, 17 James Tamou
Reserves: 18 Sione Katoa, 19 Jack Hetherington, 20 Kaide Ellis, 21 Tyrone Phillips
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Friday August 31st
Venue: AAMI Park