Neve O’Neill previews the Round 11 clash between the high-flying Melbourne Storm and struggling Brisbane Broncos at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night.
Despite securing the 2 points for the first time in 6 weeks against the Canterbury Bulldogs in Round 9, the Broncos were unable to make it 2 in a row against the Wests Tigers last week. Beaten 48-0 in a completely one sided affair, the Broncos were unable to bust through the ruck or find any cohesion in attack. Currently placed 14th on the NRL ladder, the Broncos will be desperate to get back in the winner’s circle and return to the standard of football their prestigious club is renowned for.
Sitting just 1 point shy of top spot, the Storm are in red hot form and they’re not showing any signs of slowing down. Their flair and attack and resilience in defence has been brilliant the past month, and the return of dynamo Cameron Munster to the halves has only enhanced the side’s force. Having banked 4 in a row, the Storm will be looking to clock another win against a Broncos side searching for answers.
The Broncos have made a raft of changes for this week’s clash. Coach Anthony Seibold has opted to move Anthony Milford from five-eighth to fullback to replace an injured Tesi Niu. With youngster Tom Dearden named at halfback, Brodie Croft will run out in the No. 6. Centres Richie Kennar and Jamayne Isaako have been replaced by returning duo Kotoni Staggs and Herbie Farnworth. With Corey Oates sidelined for the foreseeable future, big men Joe Ofahengaue and Tevita Pangai Junior will start in the second row. Thomas Flegler has been named at prop, and Cory Paix will assume the role of hooker in place of a suspended Isaac Luke. Tyson Gamble and Rhys Kennedy are inclusions on the interchange.
1 Anthony Milford, 2 Herbie Farnworth, 3 Kotoni Staggs, 4 Darius Boyd, 5 Xavier Coates, 6 Brodie Croft, 7 Tom Dearden, 8 Thomas Flegler, 9 Cory Paix, 10 Payne Haas, 11 Joe Ofahengaue, 12 Tevita Pangai Junior, 13 Patrick Carrigan. Interchange: 14 Tyson Gamble, 15 Rhys Kennedy, 16 Jamil Hopoate, 17 Ben Te’o. Reserves: 18 Richard Kennar, 19 Ethan Bullemor, 20 Pride Petterson-Robati, 21 Kobe Hetherington.
The Storm’s 17 remains unchanged from last week. Winger Suliasi Vunivalu has been named in the reserves, and may be a late inclusion.
1 Ryan Papenhuyzen, 2 Paul Momirovski, 3 Brenko Lee, 4 Justin Olam, 5 Josh Addo-Carr, 6 Cameron Munster, 7 Jahrome Hughes, 8 Brandon Smith, 9 Cameron Smith, 10 Christian Welch, 11 Felise Kaufusi, 12 Kenneath Bromwich, 13 Dale Finucane. Interchange: 14, Marion Seve, 15 Tino Faasuamaleaui, 16 Albert Vete, 17 Nelson Asofa-Solomona. Reserves: 18 Chris Lewis, 19 Suliasi Vunivalu, 20 Ryley Jacks, 21 Darryn Schonig.
The Storm’s success rate against the Broncos is impressive. They’ve come away with the 2 points in their last 7 matches.
BATTLE TO WATCH
Cameron Munster (Melbourne Storm) v Brodie Croft (Brisbane Broncos) – the former Storm halves pairing. These two have played alongside each other numerous times, including the Storm’s 2018 Grand Final loss to the Sydney Roosters.
In his return from injury last week, Munster was excellent – scoring a try, having a hand in another, and busting through the Titans’ line on multiple occasions. Munster’s experience and ability to create something out of nothing will be a big test for 49-game playmaker Croft. Despite having an electric running game when in space, the Brisbane half has been unable to showcase his skills since the resumption of the season following the COVID-19 break. With Munster well aware of how to restrict his former teammate’s movements, it’s pivotal that Croft uses his instincts and flair to spot opportunities and execute his plays if and when he gets the chance. While halves battles are always intriguing, this one is shaping up to be a cracker.
Prediction: Given their recent success, the Storm are poised to make it 5 in a row. However, I expect that the Broncos will find a bit of form and make it a challenge for their Melbourne counterparts.
Storm by 12.
Date: 24 July, 2020
Venue: Suncorp Stadium
Kick-off: 7:55pm (AEST)