Broncos v Storm: Schick Preview

Schick Hydro Preview Brisbane Broncos v Melbourne Storm
Suncorp Stadium
Friday, 7:50pm

48-6. 

That was the scoreline almost exactly 12 months ago when the Melbourne Storm travelled up to Brisbane in Round 17 of the 2016 season. 

The eight-tries-to-one victory was Melbourne's biggest win at Suncorp Stadium and the Broncos' largest loss at the venue, something that still stings the proud club to this day. 

But revenge is a dish best served cold and on a chilly Friday night in Brisbane there is no better stage for the Broncos to get one back on their rivals. 

A win would see Wayne Bennett's men move to within two points of the top-of-the-table Storm who suffered a one-point loss to the Sydney Roosters in Round 16 – a valiant effort considering Melbourne were missing four of their State of Origin stars. 

Billy Slater, Will Chambers, Cooper Cronk, Cameron Smith all return this week (although Smith was in some doubt at the time of writing), along with Joe Stimson, while Tim Glasby makes his way into the starting side. Curtis Scott, Jahrome Hughes, Brodie Croft, Brandon Smith and Mark Nicholls have dropped out of the 17.

For the Broncos, Korbin Sims returns at prop, with Herman Ese'ese dropping back to the bench and Joe Ofahengaue moving to the reserves. Ben Hunt again starts on the bench as coach Wayne Bennett persists with a Benji Marshall/Kodi Nikorima halves combination.

Marshall turned back the clock in Brisbane's Round 16 victory over the Canberra Raiders and he looks a different player since arriving at Red Hill for the start of the 2017 season.  

Why the Broncos can win: That man Marshall was all class in the Broncos' 10-point victory over the Raiders, putting in a performance that earned him three points in NRL.com's unofficial Dally M voting. His two try assists came off the back of some brilliant passing, while his running game prompted Bennett to make the bold statement that Marshall was back to his best. Marshall has stepped up since Brisbane suffered the loss of Anthony Milford to a shoulder injury in Round 14 and he is now the Broncos' first-choice five-eighth in Milford's absence. More of the same vintage Marshall this week will see Brisbane go close to a rare victory against the Storm, with the New Zealand international the key to the Broncos' point-scoring ability without Milford in the side. 

Why the Storm can win: Melbourne welcome back well more than 1100 NRL games worth of experience this week as some of their Queensland Maroons representatives make their way back into the 17. As gallant as the Storm were against the Roosters last week, they missed the game management skills of Slater, Cronk and Smith when it counted most, conceding 12 points in the last eight minutes to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Coach Craig Bellamy will not want to lose two in a row, especially if that meant premiership rivals Brisbane would bridge the gap between first and third. Lessons would have been learned after that tough loss last week and a few old heads should help the Storm return to their winning ways. 

 


The history: Played 41; Broncos 13 wins; Storm 27 wins; one draw. The Storm are the only team in the NRL to have a positive win/loss record against the Broncos and their record is quite dominant. Melbourne have won 11 of the past 13 matches between the two sides and the last six at Suncorp Stadium. Punters have to go all the way back to 2009 to find a Brisbane side that has been successful against the Storm at Lang Park. Melbourne have held the Broncos to 14 points or less in seven of the last eight encounters, winning the most recent meeting 14-12 in Round 3 earlier this year. 

What are the odds: Three times the money has been invested on Melbourne in Sportsbet’s head-to-head market but both the Storm and Broncos have been backed to win 1-12. That suggests we're in for a tight contest. Seventy per cent of the money in handicap betting is on Brisbane, where they’re receiving a small points start. Latest odds at sportsbet.com.au 

Match officials: Referee: Ashley Klein; Assistant Referee: Adam Gee; Touch Judges: Belinda Sleeman & Michael Wise; Review Official: Ben Galea; Senior RO: Bernard Sutton.

Televised: Channel 9 – Live coverage from 7.30pm; Fox League – Live coverage from 7.30pm. 

NRL.com predicts: As good as Brisbane have been this year, Melbourne's record against them is too good to ignore. The Broncos started favourites this time last year and the Storm simply blew them out of the water from the get-go. Expect a much closer content this time around but Melbourne should be too good in front of a huge crowd at Suncorp Stadium. Storm by seven.