Cormac Pearson previews the Good Friday Grand Final rematch when the Storm take on the reigning premiers at AAMI Park.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
The Storm are currently sitting comfortably at the top of the NRL ladder, the Melbournians remain undefeated after grinding a win against the Cowboys. Their form over the last two weeks has been patchy, but they continue to stick to their system and reap the rewards. This weeks game against the Roosters will be their biggest test of the season, physically and mentally.
After a strong win against the Sharks away, the Roosters continue to excite fans with their red hot attack. They still have some things to work on but their offence is proving too hard to stop. The mix of raw talent, skill and defensive strategy is what won them the competition last year and has overflowed into 2019.
Suliasi Vunivalu comes back into the side for the Storm while Curtis Scott is an outside chance to return in the centres. Dale Finucane will play his 100th game for Melbourne.
Storm squad: 1. Jahrome Hughes 2. Suliasi Vunivalu 3. Will Chambers 4. Marion Seve 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 14. Brandon Smith 15. Christian Welch 16. Tui Kamikamica 17. Ryan Papenhuyzen 18. Billy Walters 19. Patrick Kaufusi 20. Albert Vete 21. Curtis Scott.
Jared Waerea-Hargreaves is the big return as returns at prop, meanwhile Jake Friend and Brett Morris remain on the sidelines from injury. Joseph Manu has been suspended for one round for a crusher tackle on Sosaia Feki, utility player Mitch Aubusson is expected to slot in the centres.
Roosters squad: 1. James Tedesco 2. Daniel Tupou 3. Latrell Mitchell 4. Joseph Manu 5. Matt Ikuvalu 6. Luke Keary 7. Cooper Cronk 8. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves 9. Victor Radley 10. Siosiua Taukeiaho 11. Boyd Cordner 12. Angus Crichton 13. Zane Tetevano 14. Lindsay Collins 15. Nat Butcher 16. Poasa Faamausili 17. Mitchell Aubusson 18. Sam Verrills 19. Sitili Tupouniua 20. Josh Curran 23. Lachlan Lam.
HEAD TO HEAD
On paper this will be the game of the round, the Sydney vs Melbourne rivalry moves into the NRL as the cities battle for supremacy. The two clubs love to beat each other and have a history of doing so in classic matches. As we know, the last time these two sides met was in the 2018 Grand Final. Roosters pulled out one of the most physically dominating performances we have seen in a Grand Final and didn’t let the Storm in to the game. They frustrated them with good defence and great ball control, keeping it down Melbourne’s end for most of the game. These two teams have built a good rivalry over the years with Storm winning six of the last ten. A Grand Final can always add fuel to the fire and the Storm will be salivating at the chance for revenge.
Cooper Cronk returns to his old club in the hope to add more hurt to his past team-mates. Cameron Smith and the Storm won’t let the veteran half-back get anything but tough treatment, after basically coaching his fellow half Luke Keary to a maiden Clive Churchill medal. Expect to see these teams both fight for the physical edge, especially Kiwi teammates Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Jesse Bromwich. Historically these meetings have been tight and gritty and be ready for a intense, physical battle between two premiership heavyweights.
This week’s key battle could be the most interesting of the season so far. Two in-form halves, both in career best form battling for five-eighth supremacy. Of course, I am talking about Cameron Munster and Luke Keary. The two feisty halves have rocketed out of the blocks this year with Munster leading the Dally M count and Keary not far behind. Munster continued his super form against the Cowboys last Friday, picking up two Dally M points, a try assist and some good running numbers. Munster continues to build his partnerships with Jahrome Hughes and Brodie Croft, and his confidence as a playmaker is at a high. After a performance to forget in the Grand Final and a late game brain snap ending in a sin bin, Cameron Munster has a point to prove and will try his best to do so.
Luke Keary’s stellar year had stemmed from that Clive Churchill winning performance in last years Grand Final. He is leading the pack to be the NSW Blues Five-Eighth and is right up there in the Dally M count. His confidence was optimised last week where he pulled off the play of the round, chipping a pin-point kick to Latrell Mitchell who ran 70 metres to score on the half time bell. Coming up against the Storm will be a real test for the Ipswich born playmaker as he will be looking to replicate last years effort. Keary currently has the League at his fingertips and with Cooper Cronk and James Tedesco by his side, he could be anything.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Friday April 19
Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne
Kick-off: 7:55pm AEST
Referees: Ashley Klein and Grant Atkins
WHO WILL WIN?
This game could go either way and will be a very close game, but I think with a few key players out in Jake Friend and Joseph Manu, the Storm will grind out a tough win and remain undefeated. Storm by 4