Shannon Meyer previews the big Friday night clash between two sides who disappointed last weekend.
Melbourne were done again by the Canberra Raiders in Melbourne, a third consecutive loss to the men in green. Despite having enough ball to at least trouble the Raiders, the Storm didn’t hold on it enough. Ryan Papenhuyzen and Cameron Munster tried hard, but the outside backs offered less than usual, and their forward pack in general were disappointing. Their 2020 record is now 2-1.
One wonders if Melbourne were one of the more affected sides from the rule changes and one referee; for now we’ll just say they were beaten by the much better side on the night last weekend and keep watching.
SOUTH SYDNEY RABBITOHS
South Sydney tried hard against the Roosters last weekend, but there was a distinct difference in quality between the sides. Talking of quality, don’t ask coach Wayne Bennett about Latrell Mitchell. The former Rooster should be out of the limelight a little more this weekend after his least worst performance of the season so far last weekend, which should help. But the Rabbitohs lacked spark, something they will continue to miss this weekend without Cody Walker. Souths’ only win for 2020 was a scrappy one against Cronulla in round one.
1. Ryan Papenhuyzen, 2. Suliasi Vunivalu, 3. Justin Olam, 4. Marion Seve, 5. Josh Addo-Carr, 6. Cameron Munster, 7. Jahrome Hughes, 8. Jesse Bromwich, 9. Cameron Smith, 10. Christian Welch, 11. Felise Kaufusi, 12. Kenny Bromwich, 13. Dale Finucane 14. Brandon Smith, 15. Tino Faasuamaleaui, 16. Ryley Jacks, 17. Max King 18. Brenko Lee, 19. Albert Vete, 20. Darryn Schonig, 21. Chris Lewis.
Nelson Asofa-Solomona is suspended, which may have saved him from being benched by a furious Craig Bellamy after last weekend. Christian Welch is promoted from the bench and utility back Ryley Jacks has taken his spot.
South Sydney Rabbitohs
1. Latrell Mitchell, 2. Dane Gagai, 3. Campbell Graham, 4. Braidon Burns, 5. Alex Johnston, 6. Troy Dargan, 7. Adam Reynolds, 8. Tevita Tatola, 9. Damien Cook, 10. Thomas Burgess, 11. Jaydn Su’A, 12. Cameron Murray, 13. Liam Knight 14. Mark Nicholls, 15. Ethan Lowe, 16. Bayley Sironen, 17. Patrick Mago 18. Bryson Goodwin, 19. Tom Amone, 20. James Roberts, 21. Keaon Koloamatangi.
James Roberts could make his return this weekend, which you would think will be at the expense of Alex Johnston, who will return to his early season spot on the bench. Patrick Mago is named on the bench, replacing Tom Amone on the bench from last weekend.
One key stat points to a Melbourne victory on Friday night, as South Sydney have never beaten the Storm in Melbourne in 15 attempts: eight at AAMI Park and seven at its predecessor Olympic Park. It’s worth noting that two of Souths’ last three visits have ended in a one-point loss to the Storm, although you’ll have to look past the 58-point hiding in between.
Their overall record is pretty bad too, as South Sydney have only beaten Melbourne five times since 1998 in 31 matches.
Things get a bit tighter on Friday nights (Melbourne 4-2) and when shown on FTA (Melbourne 3-2), but the fact remains that Souths are yet to win in Melbourne. South Sydney are also on a four-game losing streak away from home.
Some more obscure match facts are that Melbourne have won their last six home matches in June, and have lost only five of 39 home games on a Friday.
BATTLE TO WATCH
The big battle that will determine the match on Friday will be with Melbourne themselves. If they are as underwhelming as they were on Saturday, when the Raiders were too good, they‘ll give Souths a chance to break their Victorian hoodoo. On paper, the Storm have the Rabbitohs covered everywhere, although if Latrell Mitchell was shifted back to the centres, and James Roberts brought back into the side, it would certainly be a match for Melbourne.
One battle that may not determine the game, but will certainly be one of interest, is head-to-head of Damien Cook and Cameron Smith. With Smith in the twilight of his career, Cook has the chance to stamp himself as the best hooker in the game.
Another battle of interest is between the two coaches, but this is likely to play out before and after the game. One is the game’s prickliest coach up against the game’s angriest. What would be a real treat for those who want to hear something other than fake crowd noise is a microphone in each coach’s box, on delay of course.
Prediction: Melbourne by 16
Date: Friday June 5.
Venue: AAMI Park.