Can the Cowboys break their longest current hoodoo or will it be ten straight for the Melbourne Storm? Cormac Pearson previews the Friday night clash in Melbourne.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
The Melbourne Storm have clinched the minor premiership for the third time in four years, with the two Cameron’s again leading them to the top of the table. Last weekend against Manly gave them a much-needed confidence boost with a dominant attacking display. However it has come at a cost with Cam Munster, Josh Addo-Carr and Brandon Smith all needing a rest.
North Queensland Cowboys
On the other hand the Cowboys have had one of those years: problems with player discipline, injuries and unfortunate health circumstances. Two consecutive wins against Penrith and the Bulldogs will have the Cowboys going into this one with some form. A win against the minor premiers would give the Townsvillians some much-needed momentum going into next year.
The rampant Cam Munster (shoulder complaint) makes way for youngster Brodie Croft, with coach Craig Bellamy resting Josh Addo-Carr and Brandon Smith. Sandor Earl jumps onto the wing with Tui Kamikamica sliding onto the bench.
Renowned record breaker Cam Smith needs just four points to break his own season points record and the most points in a season by a hooker.
Melbourne Storm’s squad: 1. Ryan Papenhuyzen 2. Suliasi Vunivalu 3. Will Chambers 4. Justin Olam 5. Sandor Earl 6. Brodie Croft 7. Jahrome Hughes 8. Jesse Bromwich 9. Cameron Smith (C) 10. Nelson Asofa-Solomona 11. Felise Kaufusi 12. Kenneath Bromwich 13. Dale Finucane 14. Max King 15. Tui Kamikamica 16. Tino Faasuamaleaui 17. Tom Eisenhuth 18. Curtis Scott 19. Joe Stimson 20. Billy Walters 21. Harry Grant.
North Queensland Cowboys
A big in this week for North Queensland with Josh McGuire returning to the bench from suspension. Young hooker Rueben Cotter makes way for the controversial forward. Jake Clifford is an outside chance to return to the halves after dealing with injury.
This will be Scott Bolton’s last game for North Queensland (the 32 year-old has played 245 games for the club) as well as legend Matt Scott, who retires this year after 268 games. Sadly, due to illness, he is not able to play on Friday. Scott has been discharged from hospital following his stroke and is expected to fully recover over the coming weeks.
North Queensland Cowboys’ squad: 1. Scott Drinkwater 2. Kyle Feldt 3. Jordan Kahu 4. Tom Opacic 5. Murray Taulagi 6. John Asiata 7. Michael Morgan (C) 8. Scott Bolton 9. Jake Granville 10. Jordan McLean (VC) 11. Gavin Cooper 12. Shane Wright 13. Jason Taumalolo 14. Josh McGuire 15. Coen Hess 16. Peter Hola 17. Francis Molo 18. Corey Jensen 19. Reuben Cotter 20. Tom Gilbert 21. Jake Clifford.
HEAD TO HEAD
The Storm have absolutely had the Cowboys’ number, winning 29 of 39 matches. The Cowboys haven’t managed to beat the silky Storm since the 2015 in the preliminary final. That’s nine straight wins for Melbourne, although five of the nine matches have been decided by six points or less. The last time these two sides played was in Round 5 in Townsville, the Cowboys letting a halftime lead slip and the Storm eventually winning 18-12. Although the stars of that match, Cam Munster and Josh Addo-Carr are both unavailable this weekend.
On Friday night it will be the battle of the brutes, as Dale Finucane lines up against Jason Taumalolo. Finucane is arguably one the most underrated players in the NRL. The 27 year-old from Bega rarely misses a tackle with a 91 per cent hit rate, averaging around 30 tackles a game. The lock has been averaging 132 metres a game and has even managed to snag 2 tries. This match up is a key as Finucane will be tasked with the tough job of not only trying to minimise JT’s influence on the game, but to make metres and get the Storm on the front foot.
While Finucane plays a gritty, tough style of rugby league, Taumalolo is explosive, dangerous and – as many fellow players say – the hardest player to tackle in the NRL. Recently named the lock of the decade, Taumalolo continues to dominate opposition packs, even on one foot. JT is currently managing pain after suffering a foot injury a few weeks ago, but he still managed 175 metres and 5 tackle breaks against the Bulldogs last week. There’s one way Taumalolo would like to finish off the season and that’s by beating the best-placed team in the NRL.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Friday, September 6th , 2019.
Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne.
Kick-off: 7:55pm AEST
Referee: Henry Perenara & Dave Munro.
WHO WILL WIN?
This is a real danger game for the Storm, the minor premiership is wrapped up, players are being rested and the Cowboys are hungry for their third straight win. It’s going to be close but I think the Storm will just pip the Cows.
Storm by four.