Andrew Pelechaty previews Cronulla against the Melbourne Storm at Nestrata Jubilee Stadium. This is what we have to look forward to.
The Sharks nearly stole an unlikely win over South Sydney (22-18) at Homebush in round one. Cronulla trailed 22-8 early in the second half, before a double to Sione Katoa pulled them within four. A forward pass stopped Josh Morris from scoring the match-equalling try.
The Storm were their usual clinical self at Brookvale Oval. It was an ice hockey-style halftime score, with Manly-Warringah leading 4-2, but a double to Suliasi Vunivalu, and one to Tom Eisenhuth, gave Melbourne an 18-4 win, their eighteenth-straight round one victory. Suli made up for his earlier ‘knees up’ carry midway through the first half.
1. Will Kennedy 2. Sione Katoa 3. Josh Morris 4. Jesse Ramien 5. Ronaldo Mulitalo 6. Shaun Johnson 7. Chad Townsend 8. Andrew Fifita 9. Blayke Brailey 10. Aaron Woods 11. Briton Nikora 12. Wade Graham 13. Jack Williams 14. Connor Tracey 15. Braden Hamlin-Uele 16. Toby Rudolf 17. Scott Sorensen 18. Billy Magoulias 19. Braydon Trindall 20. Royce Hunt 21. Josh Dugan.
1. Ryan Papenhuyzen 2. Suliasi Vunivalu 3. Marion Seve 4. Justin Olam 5. Josh Addo-Carr 6. Cameron Munster 7. Jahrome Hughes 8. Jesse Bromwich 9. Cameron Smith 10. Tui Kamikamica 11. Felise Kaufusi 12. Kenneath Bromwich 13. Dale Finucane 14. Tino Faasuamaleaui 15. Max King 16. Nelson Asofa-Solomona 17. Tom Eisenhuth 18. Harry Grant 19. Brenko Lee 20. Ryley Jacks 21. Darryn Schonig.
Melbourne have dominated this at-times fierce rivalry, with a 24-15 record from 39 games since 1998 (though Cronulla will always have that 2016 grand final win against the Storm). With the game likely to be played at an empty Netstrata Jubilee Stadium, Cronulla’s home ground advantage will be nullified. The Sharks and Storm split their games last year: Cronulla won 20-18 at Shark Park in round 8 last year (poor Parramatta copped the brunt of a frustrated Storm the following week, losing 64-10 in Magic Round). The Storm celebrated Cameron Smith’s 400th game with a 40-16 belting of Cronulla in round 17.
BATTLE TO WATCH
Sione Katoa v Suliasi Vunivalu
Both wingers scored doubles last weekend: while Vunivalu’s led to Melbourne kicking away from Manly after a tight first half, Katoa’s double engineered a late Sharks fightback, though it wasn’t enough to win. Both Vunivalu and Katoa scored their doubles within five minutes, proving how lethal they can be when given space. Whoever wins the wing battle will win the game.
The biggest factor in the game? The move to the neutral Netstrata Jubilee Stadium – with no crowd – will rob the Sharks of their vital home ground advantage. It’ll be tight early, but – just like last week at Brookvale – expect the Storm to clear away in the second half. Melbourne by 12.
Date: Saturday March 21.
Venue: Netstrata Jubilee Stadium.