Round One of the Telstra NRL Premiership sees the Brisbane Broncos travel south to AAMI Park to tackle a rejuvenated Melbourne Storm side.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
Coming off the back of a hard-fought, impressive 2018 season, the Melbourne Storm will be looking to commence the season with the vigour and electric nature that they are renowned for. Looking to make amends for their shortfall in the final game of 2018, Craig Bellamy’s young men will no doubt be raring to go come kick-off.
In light of the coaching debacle that transpired during the off-season, the Brisbane Broncos will be determined to prove they are the real deal with a comprehensive victory against their Melbourne rivals. Securing victory in the first game of the regular season would set a positive tone and commence the post ‘Wayne Bennett’ era.
The departure of two of their favourite sons, in Billy Slater and Ryan Hoffman, has caused a host of changes to the Storm’s line-up. Jahrome Hughes has been given given the nod at fullback, Kenny Bromwich takes the place of an injured Joe Stimson (back) and Tui Kamikamica has been resultantly elevated to the interchange bench.
Melbourne Storm 19-man squad:
1 Jahrome Hughes, 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, 10 Nelson Asofa-Solomona, 11 Felise Kaufusi, 12 Kenneath Bromwich, 13 Dale Finucane. Interchange: 14 Brandon Smith, 15 Christian Welch, 16 Tui Kamikamica, 17 Patrick Kaufusi. Reserves: 18 Ryan Papenhuyzen, 19 Tom Eisenhuth.
The departures of Josh McGuire and Jordan Kahu (North Queensland Cowboys) will see the return of Jack Bird to the centres, with Joe Ofahengaue set to fill the void left by McGuire. The return of workhorse Matt Gillett will also be a welcome addition after an injury plagued 2018.
Brisbane Broncos 19-man squad:
1 Darius Boyd, 2 Corey Oates, 3 James Roberts, 4 Jack Bird, 5 Jamayne Isaako, 6 Anthony Milford, 7 Kodi Nikorima, 8 Matthew Lodge, 9 Andrew McCullough, 10 Joe Ofahengaue, 11 Alex Glenn, 12 Jaydn Su’A, 13 Matt Gillett. Interchange: 14 Kotoni Staggs, 15 David Fifita, 16 Thomas Flegler, 17 Tevita Pangai Juniour. Reserves: 18 Shaun Fensom, 19 Patrick Carrigan.
HEAD TO HEAD
For the Storm to secure victory over the Broncos, it is vital that their defence remains rock-solid for the entirety of the match. When considering that every clash between these two sides is a tough, fiery affair, it is important that the Storm have a high tackle efficiency to restrict the Broncos’ opportunity for offloads. Exhibiting resilient defence and restricting their forward pack from making continual charges down the middle of the ruck will limit the havoc created by the Broncos’ agile backline. From an attacking perspective, getting the ball to their monster forward pack early in the match will set the tone for the Storm and give them the best opportunity to mount pressure and expose the Broncos’ edge defence. Provided that captain Cameron Smith allows his young spine, in Jahrome Hughes, Cameron Munster and Brodie Croft, to muster their own magic, the Storm’s chances of securing victory are grand.
Despite having a successful run to the finals in 2018, it is the consistency shown in the first few rounds that Broncos will be looking to improve on this year. For the Broncos to upset the Storm, it is pivotal that every player in the 17 is willing to put their body on the line and successfully complete their tackles to ensure that they give the Storm no attacking advantage. If their middle men, in Matt Lodge, Joe Ofahengaue and Tevita Pangai Junior, make it their intent to dominate and charge down the middle of the ruck, superstar fullback Darius Boyd will be given a license to roam and put his electric wingers (Corey Oates, Jamayne Isaako) into space.
Since their first clash in 1998, the Melbourne Storm have dominated – winning 31 of 45 games.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Thursday, 14 March 2019
Venue: AAMI Park
WHO WILL WIN?
Despite the return of some of the Broncos’ heavyweights, it is hard to foresee Craig Bellamy’s team beginning the season with anything but a victory.
Storm by 12