Andrew Pelechaty previews Brisbane’s return to Friday night football, hosting the Melbourne Storm at Suncorp Stadium.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
Brisbane have squeezed into eighth following three wins and a draw from their last four (beating Cronulla-Sutherland, Canterbury-Bankstown, the Gold Coast and drawing with the NZ Warriors), improving to eight wins, nine losses and a draw. That odd-numbered points tally could be crucial in the crush of teams competing for the bottom half of the finals.
The seemingly invincible Storm (15-3) have struggled the past couple of weeks: pushed by the Titans before running away in the second half, and losing in Golden Point to Manly-Warringah (a contender for game of the year). Maybe the emotion of Cameron Smith’s 400th game has taken its toll? After a nine-game winning streak, the Manly game was probably “the loss they had to have”. With a two-game lead over second placed South Sydney, they have time to reset before September.
Matt Gillett (groin/back) and Thomas Flegler (suspension) return, with Tevita Pangai Junior (suspension) and Keenan Palasia. Tom Dearden is named in the reserves.
Brisbane Broncos’ squad: 1. Anthony Milford 2. Corey Oates 3. Kotoni Staggs 4. Alex Glenn 5. Jamayne Isaako 6. Darius Boyd 7. Jake Turpin 8. Matthew Lodge 9. Andrew McCullough 10. Payne Haas 11. David Fifita 12. Matt Gillett 13. Thomas Flegler14. James Segeyaro 15. Joe Ofahengaue 16. Rhys Kennedy 17. Pat Carrigan 18. Tom Dearden 20. Herbie Farnworth 21. Xavier Coates 22. Shaun Fensom.
One change: Suliasi Vunivalu’s return from suspension means Sandor Earl drops from the wing to the reserves. Christian Welch (concussion) and Jesse Bromwich (sternum) are named.
Melbourne Storm squad: 1. Jahrome Hughes 2. Suliasi Vunivalu 3. Will Chambers 4. Justin Olam 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 Finucane14. Brandon Smith 15. Christian Welch 16. Joe Stimson 17. Ryan Papenhuyzen 18. Marion Seve 19. Tui Kamikamica 20. Tino Faasuamaleaui 21. Sandor Earl.
HEAD TO HEAD
Like Chester J Lampwick with his liver and onions, Melbourne love playing Brisbane. Since 1998, Melbourne lead the count 32-13 (with a draw), and have won 81 per cent of games against the Broncos at Lang Park, including an amazing 12-1 night record. Their winning percentage at Lang Park (80), is better than Brisbane’s (62.5); they haven’t lost to the Broncos there since 2009.
Melbourne won both games comfortably last year: 34-20 in Brisbane (round 7) and 32-16 in Melbourne (round 14), and won this year’s season opener 22-12. Neither club’s supporters are likely to forget the 2017 preliminary final: with Melbourne winning 30-0 enroute to another premiership.
Darius Boyd vs Cameron Munster
Once the laughing stock of the NRL for his almost comically bad defence, the Broncos skipper had found respect after switching to five-eighth from fullback. His first game there ended in a big loss to Newcastle, but ever since he’s led the Broncos to three wins and a draw.
Munster has had a busy year: playing in all but two of the Storm’s games this year, and all three Origins for Queensland. With the Storm seemingly heading towards another minor premiership, Munster can use the next six weeks to prepare for another premiership tilt, starting Friday night.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Friday August 2nd.
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane.
WHO WILL WIN?
While they may be bookending the top eight, this promises to be another blockbuster. Melbourne will want to re-balance their campaign after a couple of off games, while Brisbane are fighting for a finals spot. Expect a massive Friday night crowd at Lang Park. While home fans will want the Broncos to keep winning, Melbourne should do enough here.
Melbourne by six.