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2021 NRL Round 24 Preview, Storm Vs Eels

Nathan Smith previews the Melbourne Storm against the Parramatta Eels. This is what we have to look forward to.

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TEAM NEWS

Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane, Date: 28/8, Time: 7:35pm

Storm Team

1. Ryan Papenhuyzen
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. Chris Lewis
14. Harry Grant
15. Aaron Pene
16. Tom Eisenhuth
17. Nicho Hynes
18. Tui Kamikamica
19. Isaac Lumelume
20. Tepai Moeroa
21. Marion Seve

Team Changes

IN: Brandon Smith, Dean Ieremia, Isaac Lumelume, Jahrome Hughes, Justin Olam, Tui Kamikamica
OUT: Aaron Booth, Cooper Johns, George Jennings

Eels Team

1. Clinton Gutherson
2. Haze Dunster
3. Will Penisini
4. Waqa Blake
5. Blake Ferguson
6. Dylan Brown
7. Mitchell Moses
8. Isaiah Papali’i
9. Joey Lussick
10. Junior Paulo
11. Shaun Lane
12. Marata Niukore
13. Nathan Brown
14. Ray Stone
15. Bryce Cartwright
16. Makahesi Makatoa
17. Keegan Hipgrave
18. Will Smith
19. Oregon Kaufusi
20. Sean Russell
21. Jake Arthur

Team Changes

IN: Blake Ferguson, Jake Arthur, Keegan Hipgrave, Sean Russell
OUT: Maika Sivo

Referee: Gerard Sutton

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Melbourne Storm

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Melbourne continued being Melbourne after chalking up a 19th straight win last week against the Gold Coast Titans, and in doing so, equalled the win for most records with the Sydney Roosters’ team of 1975. A win this week breaks that record, making it 20 in a row, and if achieved, is the exclamation point on their decade and a half of dominance.

Jahrome Hughes is set to return from a concussion related break. Nico Hynes moves to the bench to accommodate the half, while both Brandon Smith and Justin Olam return to the side after being rested last week.

Parramatta Eels

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The Eels broke a four game losing streak, albeit against a much lower placed side in unconvincing fashion. Though the win would have undoubtedly been a relief, it did little to quell the perception that they’re unable to match it with the big guns.

Blake Ferguson returns to the side after overcoming a calf injury, which is timely, given Maika Sivo will miss the remainder of the season with an ACL injury. Beyond that, Ray Stone replaces Will Smith on the bench and Keegan Hipgrave takes Oregon Kaufusi’s spot.

PREVIEW

The premiership favourites against the premiership faders. That’s how it appears on first look, with Melbourne dominanting the competition (surprising nobody with their excellence), while Parramatta are collapsing at the business end of the year (also not too much of a shock given their record around this time of the year).

One might wonder, what is Melbourne’s motivation for this one? Well, it takes them one step closer to wrapping their hands around the J. J. Giltinan Shield (minor premiership) for the fifth time since 2011. If that doesn’t do it, then the opportunity to win their 20th straight match, and in doing so, break the all time record, surely should. It’s the type of record you rarely see broken, and as such, will offer the club a unique spot in the history of the game.

For Parramatta? There could be a scroll’s worth of motivating factors walking into this one. They’ve plummeted to sixth on the ladder after being a regular of the top four for most of the year, have lost by significant margins to top sides such as Penrith, Manly and Souths and in doing so, and ultimately, have lost near all credibility as anything of a threat this year. They won’t just be looking for a brave loss, they will want to win, to take a huge step forward towards the finals.

It won’t be easy for the Eels. The Storm have strikepower across the park, with their side’s attack only strengthened with the return of Olam and Smith from a brief rest last week. Their biggest concern? If you look past the starting 13, the Storm have both Harry Grant and Nico Hynes in utility positions on the bench. Expect those two, in particular, to give the Eels plenty of trouble in the middle of the field when fatigue has set in.

How does Parramatta win it? They will need the likes of Shaun Lane and Nathan Brown to pull themselves together, with their waning form a concern. Dylan Brown, who has chalked up only three try assists (compared to halves partner Moses’ 25), needs to step up and carry the burden of guiding the team around the park. Indeed, for the Eels, it’s not so much a case of who can threaten as who can step up and perform to their standard, which is something they’ve missed over the past few weeks.

KEY STAT

The record between these two sides is closer than you’d think. Melbourne lead, at 24 wins to the Eels’ 15, but have lost a couple against them in recent years. Most recently, the Eels toppled the competition leaders in round two of the 2021 competition (and in doing so, are one of two teams to defeat them this year). Parramatta may come into this match with some scars, as Melbourne have played the Eels at Suncorp twice, with one of those games a 60 point thrasing for the 2019 magic round. The overall score between the sides in Brisbane is 100 to 34.

PREDICTION

It’s hard to see this match going any other way than a clear cut Melbourne Storm victory. Though the Eels have did defeat them back in round two, and a few of Melbourne’s recent wins have been scratchy, one would thing they’re well and truly in finals’ mode and will be looking to set the tone a few weeks out. 

Melbourne by 16

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