Wests Tigers v Storm Preview

Wests Tigers v Storm
Leichhardt Oval
Sunday 2pm

Is anyone going to give the Wests Tigers their just desserts, or are most pundits going to keep expecting them to falter?

You might not realise it but this Wests Tigers unit is running third and still have a chance of wrestling the minor premiership away from the Dragons, Titans or Panthers.

They once again got the job done against Parramatta last weekend and they have high expectations going forward.

They want a home final – and they know that means they need to take down the Storm here at their own version of the ‘graveyard’.

As the last regular season home game for the Tigers, and definitely the last game at Leichhardt Oval for the year, this represents a chance for the fans to pack the place out and keep the hoodoo over the Storm alive.

The home side have won five of six encounters against Melbourne at Leichhardt and will be pushing to make it six from seven in an effort to potentially take second spot on the ladder.

A loss, on the other hand, could see them drop back to fourth and put them under pressure to remain in the top four with a last-round match against the Titans.

Wade McKinnon returns at fullback, forcing Mitch Brown to the bench in the only change from the side that held on against the Eels.

The Storm are just trying to get through the season and should be commended for their attitude since the salary cap news broke. Rather than pack it in and go through the motions they have continued to play and would be pushing for a top-four berth themselves if all things were equal.

Storm skipper Cameron Smith needs six more points to reach 1000 points in the NRL and would become the first Melbourne player to reach this milestone.

Brett Finch rejoins the side at five-eighth, which sees Luke Kelly miss out, while Sika Manu has been named in the centres, pushing Todd Lowrie back to the bench.

Brett White will start at prop, meaning Bryan Norrie goes to the bench, while Ryan Hoffman and Kevin Proctor will start in the back row with Ryan Hinchcliffe reverting to the reserves. Jesse Bromwich comes onto the bench for Sione Kite.

Watch out Wests Tigers: One player really trying to hone his skills in readiness for next season is winger/centre Dane Nielsen. While in the shadows of his centre team-mate Inglis, Neilsen looks a real prospect for the Storm going forward and must be shown respect by the Tigers in this encounter.

He averages 81 metres a match, something he is looking to lift, but with 10 line-breaks, eight tries and 62 tackle-breaks he has shown himself to be somewhat elusive. If the Storm can get him quality ball early he could force the home side to be chasing points from the get go.

Watch out Storm: Wade McKinnon returns desperate to get into some form leading into the finals. The fullback who transferred mid-season from the Warriors is still yet to score a try this season, and does not want to be stuck on the ‘nude run’ as he can’t even claim a Warriors try (he was try less there also).

In his five matches at the Tigers he has averaged 154 metres gained and has two line-breaks, two line-break assists, four offloads and 19 tackle-breaks. His best performances comes when he supports ball runners so look for him to be sniffing around the big props and also running inside lines for Benji Marshall.

Where it will be won:
Attitude and application. The Wests Tigers players have been telling all and sundry they have the goods to go all the way and they are determined to prove detractors wrong.

They have done a good job so far but now they face a side they are expected to beat but a side that still have some big name stars. Will they turn up as committed this week?

If they fail to do so, the likes of Billy Slater, Greg Inglis, Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith would love nothing more than to put them in their place. As has been the case for the Storm for most of the season, their commitment to the game will also be paramount to their performance. They haven’t really liked travelling to Leichhardt and its outdated facilities and while they have been great for most of the year, this match shapes up as one where they could be off the pace. The same thing happened at Brookvale a few weeks ago.

The side that is actually committed to getting the job done will get the result and leave Leichhardt with some momentum into the last round of the year.

The history:
Played 18; Wests Tigers 6, Storm 12. The Wests Tigers may have only won six games against the Storm but five of them have been at Leichhardt Oval, the venue for this game. The Storm have only beaten the Tigers once at this ground.

The past four games have gone win-loss in this match-up, and since the Storm won the last encounter if the trend continues it points to a Wests Tigers win.  

Conclusion:
The Leichhardt hoodoo should continue as long as the Wests Tigers turn up in the right frame of mind. They have plenty of motivation to win and also need to continue their momentum into a big last-round clash with the Titans… and then finals football.

Melbourne will give them a run for a while but if the Wests Tigers are ready to play, they should win.

Match officials: Referees – Gavin Badger & Alan Shortall; Sideline Officials – Jeff Younis & Adam Reid; Video Ref – Phil Cooley.

Televised: Fox Sports – Live 2pm.