Shannon Meyer previews the clash between first and last on the Gold Coast on Sunday afternoon.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
Gold Coast Titans
Last weekend’s 24-2 loss to the Panthers was the final straw for the Titans and their association with coach Garth Brennan. It was their third loss in a row, and was probably their worst performance of a year not overflowing with highlights. It doesn’t help that the loss meant that the Titans finished the weekend at the bottom of the ladder.
It was only just over a month ago when they beat Brisbane and Manly away from home, so perhaps there’s still some hope for a decent end to the season. They haven’t won at home since April mind you.
Safe to say the Storm are in form right now. They’re on a winning streak of eight games, leading the competition by six points with twice the points differential and more.
While they haven’t been perfect in that winning run, they have been very Melbourne and getting the job done. The late burst against the Sharks last weekend gave a glimpse of just how good Melbourne can be when they feel like playing.
Gold Coast Titans
Changes reign supreme at the Titans on and off the field. Brennan has been held responsible for their underwhelming season so far, so now it is time for the players to prove ‘it’s not me, it’s you’.
Anthony Don, Mitch Rein and Will Matthews have all been dropped, Shannon Boyd is also out through injury. Dale Copley and Brenko Lee return to the starting side, and Leilani Latu and Sam Stone are the new faces on the bench, as is Michael Gordon on his way back from injury.
Gold Coast Titans squad:
1. Alexander Brimson 2. Dale Copley 3. Brenko Lee 4. Brian Kelly 5. Phillip Sami 6. Tyrone Roberts 7. Ryley Jacks 8. Jarrod Wallace 9. Nathan Peats 10. Jack Stockwell 11. Kevin Proctor 12. Bryce Cartwright 13. Jai Whitbread 14. Michael Gordon 15. Moeaki Fotuaika 16. Leilani Latu 17. Sam Stone 18. Tanah Boyd 19. Mitch Rein 20. Will Matthews 21. Anthony Don.
Showing how worried they are about facing the Titans, Melbourne have rested Cameron Munster, with the unlikely replacement being Joe Stimson at five eighth. That will probably change before kick off, and here’s hoping the end result is Harry Grant being rewarded for an outstanding season for the Sunshine Coast Falcons. He will probably win Player of the Season in the Intrust Super Cup, so could be a good early view to yet another in the Storm production line.
Some other Origin stars have been rested too, but not Dale Finucane and Christian Welch (suspended). Marion Seve returns for Will Chambers, Sandor Earl gets another NRL chance for Josh Addo-Carr, and Tino Faasuamaleaui and Tom Eisenhuth come onto the bench. Faasuamaleaui is attracting some big money interest despite only playing less than half an hour in the NRL.
Melbourne Storm squad:
1. Jahrome Hughes 2. Suliasi Vunivalu 3. Marion Seve 4. Justin Olam 5. Sandor Earl 6. Joe Stimson 7. Brodie Croft 8. Jesse Bromwich 9. Cameron Smith 10. Nelson Asofa-Solomona 11. Tui Kamikamica 12. Kenneath Bromwich 13. Dale Finucane 14. Brandon Smith 15. Tino Faasuamaleaui 16. Tom Eisenhuth 17. Ryan Papenhuyzen 18. Harry Grant 19. Solomone Kata 20. Max King 21. Isaac Lumelume.
HEAD TO HEAD
Overall, the Storm have a 68% winning rate against the Titans, and the Gold Coast last won in 2017: 38-36 at Suncorp Stadium.
The Gold Coast last beat the Storm at home in 2013, and have a 1-5 record against Melbourne on a Sunday. But the teams have never met in July, so there’s a record to be made.
It is hard to pick a key battle when the Storm are so far superior in every department, even with the changes. Depending on who eventually plays in the halves for Melbourne, the Titans are most closely matched to the Storm in that department. Ryley Jacks played well enough in 2018 for the Storm to keep their prospect Brodie Croft out of the team for a while, and Tyrone Roberts has been one of the Titans’ better players this season. But will the Titans halves get the momentum from their pack to cause damage against the Storm? Unlikely going on current form.
The even bigger battle for the Titans comes off field as they look for a new coach. A pivotal one if you hear the club talking following the sacking of Brennan. We say give the Walker brothers a go, but a much more conservative option is likely. Their off field situation couldn’t be in more contrast than the Storm.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Sunday July 21
Venue: CBUS Super Stadium
WHO WILL WIN?
In British Football you usually get a new manager bounce, however you can’t see that happening on Sunday. What the changes may have done is limit the damage, along with the Melbourne squad rotation. In saying that, a Melbourne win by anything less than 20 points would be a surprise.