It will be an emotional Anzac Day in Melbourne, with the Storm and the Warriors coming together to not only celebrate our servicemen and women but to also do battle for the Michael Moore trophy, a tribute to one of their own.
Michael Moore was the Melbourne football manager who died in a tragic accident during an away trip to Auckland in 2000, and ever since the two sides have battled for the trophy in his name.
With the Last Post and Ode still pulsing through their minds, the two sides are likely to give us a ripper of a contest, particularly as the Warriors aren’t afraid to play Melbourne in Melbourne like some teams are.
In the corresponding game last season we had one of those rare golden point draws – and we could get the same again if the Warriors (3-3) shake off their disappointing loss to the Panthers and the Storm (4-2) regroup from being pipped by Manly.
Melbourne’s two-point loss saw them slide down to fourth on the ladder, while the Warriors’ capitulation to Penrith had them drop back to ninth.
It was the first time in 18 months the Storm have lost back-to-back matches – and you have to go back to the final three rounds of 2002 to find a time the Storm lost three on the trot.
They have named Ryan Hinchcliffe to start at lock, with Ryan Hoffman reverting to second row and Kevin Procter moving to the bench. Hep Cahill and Brett White have been added to the reserves, list and although named in the centres, Greg Inglis is in extreme doubt and will almost certainly miss the match.
The Warriors have Jerome Ropati back starting in the centres, which pushes Brent Tate to the wing and Kevin Locke out of the side. Prop Jeremy Latimore is also out, with Jesse Royal to start and Russell Packer joining the bench.
Perhaps most importantly, tackling dynamo Micheal Luck rejoins the team, forcing Ben Matulino to the reserves list.
Watch out Storm: The Warriors have always troubled the Storm with second-phase football and this looks set to continue if you examine at the averages from the first six games.
The Warriors have busted out 105 offloads so far this season – or 17.5 a game – while the Storm have just 53 offloads at 8.8 a game. If the Kiwi-based side can control their errors and get the ball moving, the Storm could be scrambling throughout the match.
Melbourne are allowing an average 13.7 offloads from their opposition each week and it’s forcing them to expel extra energy in defence.
The Warriors’ most prolific offloaders are Brent Tate (14), Sam Rapira (12) and Joel Moon (11) and Ian Henderson is the only player in this week’s side yet to register one. The side can pop a pass across the board.
Watch out Warriors: Cameron Smith is seething at his performance against Manly, claiming it was one of the worst of his career – and you just know he won’t back that up with another poor game.
Smith is the best hooker in the world and when he is on his game he can singlehandedly take another team out of the contest.
Watch for him to send plenty of troops through the Warriors’ middle and then scoot when the chance comes.
Also, watch for him to pull defenders away from Cooper Cronk, who can then decide to play outside or run himself, which he did expertly to score twice against Manly.
If Smith isn’t man-of-the-match here, he’ll be close to it.
Where it will be won: Taking chances when they come. The Warriors have made more line-breaks than the Storm this season, with 32 against 23, but over the past few years the Storm have invariably known how to close the deal when the opportunities come.
Thankfully for Warriors fans, their side have also found a way to capitalise on chances. With 14 tries directly from line-breaks, the Warriors are operating at a 44 per cent conversion rate, while the Storm have scored tries 39 per cent of the time they have broken the line so far in 2010. Whichever side first makes the breaks, doesn’t panic in space, and then finishes with style will be victorious.
The History: Played 24; Storm 12, Warriors 10, drawn 2. Melbourne have only managed one win in the past four games against the Warriors – a 30-0 win last season in Auckland. The Warriors won both games in 2008 and drew 14-14 in last season’s match in Melbourne.
In the two matches played between the sides at Etihad the Storm has a win and the other is drawn.
Conclusion: If any side has the capacity to inflict a third straight loss on the Storm it is the Warriors, who have a knack for upsetting the Melbourne style. But you still feel it will be the Storm’s night at Etihad.
Had the Warriors not been so meek against Penrith last weekend you would be able to garner more confidence and by all means, if you think they can get the job done, tip them.
But the reality is Cameron Smith is one heck of a competitor and he won’t stand for poor play from his side much longer. Expect him to have a blinder and lead his side back into the winner’s circle.
Match officials: Referees – Gavin Badger & Brett Suttor; Sideline Officials – David Abood & Dave Munro; Video Ref – Chris Ward.
Televised: Fox Sports – Live 6pm.