Storm wrestling their way to title: Hunt
They have three of the best players in the game's history and one of the finest coaches the NRL has seen yet Broncos hooker Ben Hunt says that the reason the Storm are unbackable premiership favourites is their status as the best wrestlers in the Telstra Premiership.
Writing in the Round 24 issue of Big League, Hunt's comments have the potential to set up an explosive finals match-up or even grand final showdown as the two top teams in the competition through 23 rounds gear up for a premiership tilt.
The Storm can wrap up the minor premiership by ending Newcastle's winning streak at three this Saturday afternoon and in identifying Melbourne as the team to beat Hunt says the other contenders have a major battle to overcome their proficiency in slowing down the ruck.
"Melbourne are clear favourites, and they've been the benchmark all year," Hunt says in this week's issue of Big League.
"There are a lot of things that make them so good, but the thing Melbourne do best is their wrestle.
"They're the best in the game at it and everyone knows.
"You can't get a roll on against them because they wrestle so well."
Although the Broncos are cruising along very nicely in second position Hunt is also looking over his shoulder at a team he believes can cause plenty of carnage come finals time, and could even win the 2017 Telstra Premiership.
A loss to the Raiders this weekend in Canberra could see Penrith drop out of the top eight altogether but other than minor premiership-bound Melbourne the Panthers are the ones Hunt says other teams should be most worried about.
Currently riding the momentum of a six-game winning streak that has them sitting in sixth position heading into Round 24, the Panthers face fellow finals aspirants Canberra, St George Illawarra and Manly Warringah and the Brisbane No.9 has seen enough to make them premiership contenders should they qualify for the finals.
"The Panthers are one of the most dangerous attacking sides in the competition when everything clicks," Hunt says.
"Matt Moylan is great and Nathan Cleary has done a great job steering the side around.
"Penrith are the side no team will want to play in the finals and I believe they're a real smoky."
At the other end of the spectrum, many have questioned whether the bite has been taken out of the Sharks' premiership defence on the back of their 32-10 loss to the Broncos last week but Hunt is not one of them.
Pleased with how the Broncos defence handled Cronulla's attack, Hunt said that it was silly to suggest the Sharks can't bounce back and be there again on grand final day.
"At the Broncos we've been able to score plenty of points, especially over the past fortnight, but the most pleasing thing has been our defence," Hunt says.
"Attitude is the main thing for us, we've worked really hard on coming out and defending well at the start of games because we know our attack will follow.
"Cronulla have hit a rough patch in their season, but they're still a major threat. Writing the Sharks off just because they've dropped a few games is foolish, because they did the same thing leading into the finals last year."
The Round 24 issue of Big League looks at the premiership puzzle, how the tough losses have helped Brock Lamb learn his trade at the Knights, Ivan Cleary's influence at the Wests Tigers, the NRL's plans for Perth and the top eight costly goal-kicking misses. On sale now at newsagents, supermarkets, at the ground and via www.magsonline.com.au/big-league.