Schick Hydro Preview: Melbourne Storm v South Sydney Rabbitohs
Saturday 26 August, 5.30pm
The Melbourne Storm aren't fond of basking in their own success, a trait that spells danger for an improving South Sydney Rabbitohs team.
Craig Bellamy's side wrapped up the 2017 minor premiership with their 44-12 win against the Knights on Saturday but talk quickly turned to putting in a better performance against their next opponent. Bunnies beware.
South Sydney won't play finals football this year but have been stringing some confidence-building wins together. Like the Knights last week, the Rabbitohs will view this as a key one. The Storm will want to get the job done and give the likes of Tohu Harris and Cameron Munster more game time as they return from injuries.
Storm halfback Cooper Cronk returns to take on South Sydney after having last week off. Young half Brodie Croft misses out – despite scoring three tries and providing a try assist – and the rest of the 17 are unchanged.
Rabbitoh's skipper Sam Burgess returns, as does winger Robert Jennings. They'll miss fullback Alex Johnston who is out for of the season with a hamstring injury. Bryson Goodwin moves into the number one jersey.
Why the Storm can win: Storm skipper Cameron Smith said his team hasn't put an 80-minute performance together since early in the season and will be doing their best to rectify this against the Rabbitohs. They've only dropped four games this year and some of their attack last week was ruthless. Cronk will enhance their line-up.
Why the Rabbitohs can win: Michael Maguire's men have some momentum with three wins on the trot. They're also averaging 30 points per game during this period. With Johnston gone, look for five-eighth Cody Walker to continue his good form in attack this year. He leads the competition for line-break assists (equal with the Roosters' Luke Keary).
The history: Played 27; Storm 23, Rabbitohs 4. It's grim reading for the Sydneysiders, who have lost nine of their last 10 clashes against Melbourne. The last three losses were by eight points or less, so there has been improvement at least.
What are the odds: Melbourne are the best-backed side of the round with Sportsbet, with 99 per cent of the money on the Storm and the only money really taken on the Rabbitohs coming at the line, where they're the recipients of a massive points start. Latest odds at sportsbet.com.au.
Match officials: Referee: Henry Perenara. Assistant Referee: Jon Stone. Touch judges: Russell Turner and Adam Reid. Review official: Ben Galea. Senior RO: Ashley Klein.
Televised: Fox League – Live from 5:30pm.
NRL.com predicts: Melbourne are looking for a complete performance as they reach finals. The win seems a formality when they are in this sort of mood – a couple of levels above the rest of the competition – so expect an unrelenting performance. Storm by 16.