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2021 NRL Round 22 Preview, Storm Vs Raiders

Andrew Pelechaty previews the Round 22 opener between Melbourne and Canberra on the Sunshine Coast. This is what we have to look forward to.

TEAM NEWS

Venue: Sunshine Coast Stadium, Sunshine Coast, Date: 12/8, Time: 7:50pm

Team Changes

1. Nicho Hynes
2. Dean Ieremia
3. Reimis Smith
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. Dale Finucane
14. Harry Grant
15. Chris Lewis
16. Nelson Asofa-Solomona
17. Ryan Papenhuyzen
18. Tom Eisenhuth
19. Tepai Moeroa
20. Jordan Grant
21. Isaac Lumelume

IN: Felise Kaufusi
Isaac Lumelume
Nelson Asofa-Solomona


OUT: nil

Raiders Team

Team Changes

1. Jordan Rapana
2. Bailey Simonsson
3. Jarrod Croker
4. Matthew Timoko
5. Harley Smith-Shields
6. Jack Wighton
7. Sam Williams
8. Josh Papalii
9. Josh Hodgson
10. Joseph Tapine
11. Hudson Young
12. Elliott Whitehead
13. Ryan Sutton
14. Tom Starling
15. Emre Guler
16. Corey Harawira-Naera
17. Iosia Soliola
18. Sebastian Kris
19. Matt Frawley
20. Dunamis Lui
21. Siliva Havili

IN: Bailey Simonsson
Dunamis Lui
Matt Frawley
Sebastian Kris
Siliva Havili


OUT:

Elijah Anderson
Semi Valemei

Referee: Gerard Sutton

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Storm

While the Storm extended their winning run to 17 on Saturday night, they finally got a decent contest against Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles.

Pushing for a vital top four finish, the resurgent Sea Eagles took it up to the Storm, with a 68th minute try to Cameron Munster sealing a 28-18 win. Justin Olam also scored a second half double. It was the test the Storm needed after four months of near-invincibility.

Felise Kaufusi (suspension) and Nelson Asofa-Solomona (hamstring) return for this clash.

Raiders

Canberra kept their tenuous finals hopes alive with a 20-12 win over St George-Illawarra Dragons. While it wasn’t as impressive as their recent wins over Cronulla-Sutherland, the Sea Eagles, and Parramatta, the Raiders kept the Dragons scoreless for 50 minutes, with Jordan Rapana, Jack Wighton, and Tom Starling scoring tries.

Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks’ surprise loss to the Warriors kept Canberra in the top eight, at least for now.

The big change is the return of Bailey Simonsson, with Semi Valemi dropping out. Crucially, Bailey will play on the wing, with Rapana retaining his hard-earned fullback spot.

PREVIEW

This is a big game for Canberra: with a tough run home against the Storm, the Sea Eagles, and the Sydney Roosters, they’ll need to win one or two of those (and beat the Warriors in Round 24) to make the eight.

The question for the Storm is, with four rounds left and a top two spot almost guaranteed, when will Craig Bellamy start to rest his stars in preparation for the games that matter in September? Or will he push hard for the minor premiership? Though, considering that the Storm won last year from second place (with Penrith sailing to the minor premiership), it may not matter.

Another advantage for the Storm is the venue: they’ve won two from two at Sunshine Coast Stadium this season (including the 66-16 smashing of the Wests Tigers, which should make a fiery episode of “Wild Wests: Tales from Tiger Town”), and six from six in 2020.

KEY STAT

Melbourne have won the past three games against the Raiders: 34-10 in Round 11 this year, 30-10 in the 2020 preliminary final, and 20-14 in Round Nine, 2020.

However, Canberra fans will cherish the two wins at AAMI Park in 2019: the first was in Round 22, when the Raiders came from 18-0 down to win 22-18; then the qualifying final win a month later, when BJ Leilua passed to John Bateman to seal a 12-10 win.

PREDICTION

While the Raiders need this win more than the Storm, Melbourne look almost untouchable. Canberra should be competitive, but the Storm will have too much class.

Storm by 14.

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