Storm v Broncos: Melbourne make late switches, Roberts out
Just a few days after spilling blood together as Queensland Origin teammates, Storm stars Cam Munster, Felise Kaufusi and Will Chambers will lock horns with Brisbane's Andrew McCullough and Josh McGuire in a clash between two teams with identical 7-5 records.
Both teams had a bye last week and it must be weird for Cameron Smith to be watching Origin rather than being in it. Smith and the rest of the non-Origin Storm players would've appreciated the mid-season break and will be fired up for a big game on their home turf.
Darius Boyd and the Broncos enjoyed the brief respite and will be keen to put in a good showing against the reigning premiers. Brisbane were decisively outplayed when they hosted Melbourne in round seven, going down 34-20 in a game that was never that close.
Key match-up: A few eyebrows were raised when Darius Boyd's name wasn't read out for Queensland Origin selection. Boyd scored 17 tries in 28 games for the Maroons from 2008-17 and there's talk that the soon-to-be 31-year-old has made his final appearance in the Origin arena. Boyd was hoping for a chance to outwit the great Billy Slater but Slater is likely to be rested with a hamstring injury which ruled him out of the Origin series-opener.
For the Storm to win: While coach Craig Bellamy might have to check on the fitness of his Origin stars, for once he doesn't have to worry if Cameron Smith is good to go. Smith will be champing at the bit after a week's rest and always plays well against the Broncos. The skipper will be keen to arrest a mini-slide which has seen the Storm lose two of their past four games and concede 19.5 points per game across those four matches.
For the Broncos to win: Coach Wayne Bennett will be hoping Andrew McCullough and Josh McGuire get through Origin unscathed, with the pair critical to Brisbane's chances of causing an upset. Brisbane have to do their best to minimise Smith's influence and ensure they are switched on defensively on Melbourne's speed men out wide.
Storm stat attack: The Storm's attacking game has struggled in their last two games, having scored only one try. Coming up against the Broncos on Sunday, who have recently had no trouble in putting points on the board, the Storm's young halves will have to step up and take control as Billy Salter is likely to be ruled out for this clash.
Broncos stat attack: Melbourne may have a couple of the NRL's best try-scorers on the flanks in Josh Addo-Carr and Suliasi Vunivalu but Brisbane have uncovered one of their own this season, with rookie winger Jamayne Isaako scoring four tries in his past three games.
And another thing: They share the same numbers in the win/loss columns but there's a big difference in Melbourne's and Brisbane's for-and-against records. The Storm have scored 265 points and conceded 189, while the Broncos have scored 232 and given up 264. Brisbane will be in strife if they don't get their defence right on Sunday.
Match: Storm vs Broncos
Venue: AAMI Park
- Nine Network
- Fox League
- LIVE PASS
Melbourne Storm v Brisbane Broncos, Sunday 4.1pm at AAMI Park
Storm: 1 Jahrome Hughes, 2 Suliasi Vunivalu, 21 Cheyse Blair, 4 Young Tonumaipea, 5 Josh Addo-Carr, 6 Cameron Munster, 7 Ryley Jacks, 8 Jesse Bromwich, 9 Cameron Smith, 10 Nelson Asofa-Solomona, 11 Felise Kaufusi, 16 Ryan Hoffman, 13 Tim Glasby
Interchange: 14 Brandon Smith, 12 Joe Stimson, 15 Kenny Bromwich, 17 Christian Welch
Cheyse Blair will start in the centres for the suspended Will Chambers, while Billy Slater (hamstring) has been left out of the side. Jesse Bromwich starts at prop, Tim Glasby shifts to lock and Dale Finucane is out. Ryan Hoffman has been elevated to the run-on side an hour before kick-off with Joe Stimson reverting to the bench. Sam Kasiano (suspension) also out. Cameron Munster, Felise Kaufusi and Josh Addo-Carr will back up from Origin. Patrick Kaufusi, Brodie Croft and Scott Drinkwater were cut from the reserves list on Saturday. Justin Olam and Tui Kamikamica were dropped on game day.
Broncos: 1 Darius Boyd (c), 2 Corey Oates, 22 Tom Opacic, 4 Jordan Kahu, 5 Jamayne Isaako, 6 Anthony Milford, 7 Kodi Nikorima, 8 Matthew Lodge, 9 Andrew McCullough, 10 Sam Thaiday, 11 Alex Glenn, 12 Jaydn Su'A, 13 Josh McGuire
Interchange: 14 Patrick Mago, 15 Joe Ofahengaue, 16 Tevita Pangai jnr, 17 Kotoni Staggs
James Roberts has withdrawn to rest an on-going Achilles ailment and been replaced in the centres by Tom Opacic. Anthony Milford, Josh McGuire and Andrew McCullough will back up from Origin. Alex Glenn (knee) and Josh McGuire (ankle) return to the team after injury layoffs, pushing Tevita Pangai jnr and Joe Ofahengaue to the bench. David Fifita was cut from the squad 24 hours out from kick-off. Sam Tagataese, Todd Murphy and Troy Dargan were omitted on game day.
Head-to-head: Played 44; Storm 30 wins, Broncos 13 wins, 1 draw
Matches at venue: Played 9; Storm 6 wins, Broncos 3 wins
2017 result: Storm won 14-12 at AAMI Park in round 3; Storm won 42-12 at Suncorp Stadium in round 17; Storm won 30-0 at AAMI Park in finals week 3
Points per game: Storm 22.1; Broncos 19.3
Points conceded per game: Storm 15.8; Broncos 22
Televised: Live on Nine, Fox League
Steve Turner's prediction: Both teams are fresh off a bye and have a host of stars backing up from Origin. The Storm have the luxury of Cameron Smith being available during the rep period, but they do have an injury concern with Billy Slater still nursing a hamstring injury. Brisbane's record in Melbourne isn't good, throw in the battle of the coaches and you have a cracking game on Sunday afternoon.
Tip: Storm by 6