If the Melbourne Storm are to resurrect their season and get any sort of momentum towards the finals they must find a way to not only beat the Roosters, but beat them well.
This shouldn’t be so difficult considering the Roosters are running last in the competition and haven’t tasted many victories in 2009, not to mention they are backing up from Monday night football, always a tough ask.
But Melbourne have been fading heavily in recent times, and while they are still fourth, their position in the top half of the eight is now well and truly under threat from several teams.
Their destiny is still in their hands, as two wins from the last two weeks will guarantee a home final; however the Roosters are a side braced in a battle to avoid the wooden spoon, which brings motivation in itself.
For the Roosters to get away from last place they need to find a win somewhere (and hope the Sharks don’t) or somehow cover the 44-point shortfall in the differentials between the two sides.
In essence, this means the Roosters have plenty of incentive to battle for the entire 80 minutes, even if behind, as a small loss will make it potentially possible to offload the spoon before the end of the final round.
Melbourne will be without Jeff Lima, who has been replaced by Wairangi Koopu on the bench, while Aiden Tolman has been named to start with Adam Blair back to the reserves list.
For the Roosters, Willie Mason has been chosen to start this week, which pushes Setaimata Sa from second row to centre and Ben Jones to the bench.
Jake Friend has also been chosen to start the match at hooker, with Riley Brown hitting the pine.
Nick Kouparitsas has been named as 18th man.
Watch out Storm: The Roosters will pretty much exclusively attack to the left side of the field. All year they have faced difficulty scoring points; however when they do score them, they are usually on the left (Ben Jones grabbed their only try there against the Bulldogs last week).
So far this season the side has 40 tries on the left side of the field, just 16 on the right and just seven up the middle. So the trick to beating the Roosters is to stack your right-side defenders and force the tri-colours to try to score points through their weaker avenues.
Watch out Roosters: The Storm are aware the Roosters are failing to defuse almost half the cross-field bombs and a quarter of the regular bombs that are thrown at them, so an air raid could be looming.
The home side will no doubt let it rain with high kicks to put pressure on the Roosters’ back three and if Inglis plays, this could be highlighted even more.
While the Storm don’t have an Israel Folau-style target like they used to, they do have some handy leapers in Steve Turner and Will Chambers, while even short-stack Joseph Tomane has shown he likes to try to get up and at the ball.
Where it will be won: The talent imbalance. Let’s face it, the Roosters just don’t have the cattle at the moment to match it with the Storm (or most other teams for that matter) and this is where the match will no doubt be decided.
The tri-colours cannot really be accused of not trying, as players including Craig Fitzgibbon have busted a gut despite the run of outs, but their roster just hasn’t been strong enough, skilled enough or experienced enough to get the job done.
Yes the likes of Mitchell Pearce, Anthony Minichiello, Nate Myles, Willie Mason and Fitzgibbon have graced representative teams in the past, but they haven’t been able to get their own form at its best let alone lift the inexperienced and younger Roosters to glory.
On the other side of the coin Craig Bellamy has a side used to winning and a side that can grind with the best of them, even when they aren’t necessarily playing at their best.
The likes of Billy Slater, Brett Finch, Cooper Cronk, Cameron Smith, Dallas Johnson and more are all full of talent and discipline, giving the Storm a distinct edge. There is still the chance of adding Greg Inglis to the list but even without him Melbourne has the talent shifted well in their favour.
The history: Played 19; Storm 10, Roosters 9. Melbourne have won six of the past eight matches, including a 28-12 win earlier this year. The Storm have a 7-3 advantage over the Roosters at Olympic Park.
Conclusion: If the Storm cannot win this match they may as well pack it up and say goodbye to thoughts of a fourth straight grand final. They are better than their recent form and could still be a premiership dark horse if they get things back on track. The Roosters are struggling and backing up from Monday night and playing away from home, while the Storm have a top-four berth to scrap for.
This should be all Melbourne, and by a reasonable score as well.
Match officials: Referees – Jared Maxwell & Brett Suttor; Sideline Officials – Gavin Morris & David Abood; Video Ref – Steve Clark.
Televised: Fox Sports – Delayed 9.20pm.
* Statistics: NRL Stats.