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2021 NRL Round Eight Preview, Storm Vs Sharks

Nathan Smith previews the Melbourne Storm hosting the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks. This is what we have to look forward to.

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TEAM NEWS

Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne, Date: Friday, 30th of April, Time: 6:00pm

Storm Team

1. Nicho Hynes
2. Reimis Smith
3. Tom Eisenhuth
4. Justin Olam
5. Josh Addo-Carr
6. Cameron Munster
7. Jahrome Hughes
8. Jesse Bromwich
9. Brandon Smith
10. Christian Welch
11. Felise Kaufusi
12. Kenneath Bromwich
13. Tui Kamikamica
14. Harry Grant
15. Dale Funicane
16. Chris Lewis
17. Ryley Jacks
18. Aaron Pene
19. Dean Ieremia
20. Trent Loiero
21. Isaac Lumelume

Team Changes

IN: Aaron Pene, Dean Ieremia, Isaac Lumelume, Ryley Jacks, Trent Loiero
OUT: George Jennings, Nelson Asofa-Solomona

Sharks Team

1. Will Kennedy
2. Mawene Hiroti
3. Will Chambers
4. Jesse Ramien
5. Connor Tracey
6. Shaun Johnson
7. Chad Townsend
8. Aiden Tolman
9. Blayke Brailey
10. Aaron Woods
11. Briton Nikora
12. Wade Graham
13. Toby Rudolf
14. Teig Wilton
15. Braydon Trindall
16. Jack Williams
17. Braden Hamlin-Uele
18. Matt Moylan
19. Billy Magoulias
20. Franklin Pele
21. Josh Dugan

Team Changes

IN: Aiden Tolman, Matt Moylan, Wade Graham, Will Chambers
OUT: Siosifa Talakai

Referee: Gerard Sutton

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Storm

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Melbourne were comprehensive winners against the Warriors last week (42-20). This was their fifth win of the year, with the only two losses coming to other two competition heavyweights in Penrith and Parramatta. At home, they’re undefeated in 2021, and as such they will be firm favourites to get the two points this week.

There are a few changes this week. George Jennings is out, which will push Reimis Smith to the wing and Tom Eisenhuth to centre. Their big out is Nelson Asofa-Solomona, with Ryley Jacks and Chris Lewis coming onto the bench to complete the reshuffle.

Sharks

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The Sharks have had a rocky past few weeks, with coach John Morris’ role being terminated, and successive losses in the past two weeks. Last week, they lost in an upset result to the Bulldogs, who fought desperately to chalk up their first win of the year. They will be understandably disappointed after having bombed a multitude of tries that might have helped them get the victory. They will need to improve considerably to have half a chance against the reigning premiers.

The most interesting in for Cronulla this week is former Storm player Will Chambers, who recently signed on with the side. He will take place at centre, pushing Josh Dugan onto the extended reserves bench. Further, Aiden Tolman returns to the forward pack, while their captain Wade Graham will come back from injury, which will undoubtedly add an immense amount to their team.

PREVIEW

This will unquestionably be a match that Melbourne are expected to win. They are playing at home, where they’ve yet to lose in 2021, and are coming off of a string of impressive wins against quality opposition. As usual, they are a heavyweight of the competition and are warming into their season nicely.

For the Sharks, their number one job will be to do the opposite of everything they put out on the field last week. Execution would have been the theme of the week, with several tries gone begging throughout the course of their match against the Bulldogs. More importantly, they will want to dispel the idea that Morris’ sacking might have had an influence on the team’s performances.

There’s no going past the fact that Chambers returning to NRL, up against his old club, presents itself as a fascinating narrative leading into this game. Once one of the most damaging centres in the game (with premierships, Origin wins and many Australian caps to his name), he had a stint playing Rugby before signing on for the Sharks this season. The question isn’t whether he has the talent, but rather, whether his body is up to it after his time spent away from league.

The Storm will need to make do without the immense go-forward that Asofa-Solomona provides, which will be a challenge. With stats that read an average of 119 metres, 139 tackles and 333.7 post contact metres per game, it will be up to the rest of the Storm forward pack to step up.

KEY STAT

The Storm have won more overall head-to-head matches, with 25 of the 40 victories (and no draws). Most notably (though not counted in these stats), the Sharks toppled the Storm in 2016 to win the premiership. The AAMI Park head-to-head stats tell a more dominant story, with the Storm having won nine of their 11 encounters, or 81.8%. Given their undefeated run at home, and the fact the Sharks traditionally struggle down south, and the Storm look likely to continue their winning ways.

PREDICTION

It’s hard to see this as being anything other than a Storm victory, and a comfortable one at that. The Sharks have more firepower, especially with the inclusion of Chambers and Graham, however the Storm will be too strong for them at the end.

Storm by 20.

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