Storm v Raiders: Bromwich to start, mass changes for Raiders
Jamie Soward often says no-one does big games better than Melbourne and it's hard to argue when you watch the way they methodically impose their will and force teams into an 80-minute grind.
They did it to the Warriors in a 12-6 win last week and it was the same script in a 9-8 defeat of the Roosters a month ago in Adelaide.
And now here they are on top of the NRL ladder with six rounds remaining, perfectly positioned to defend their premiership.
The Raiders are still a mathematical chance of making the finals but the air went out of the balloon with last week's controversial road loss to Cronulla and things might only get worse on Saturday night in Melbourne.
Match: Storm v Raiders
Round 20 -
Venue: AAMI Park
- Fox League
- LIVE PASS
Key match-up: Two of the game's top hookers go head to head in Cam Smith and Josh Hodgson. They each bring different qualities to the table and Smith knows he faces a fierce competitor in English international Hodgson. It's virtually impossible to put the unflappable Smith off his game, but the Raiders might be a chance if Hodgson produces a five-star performance.
For the Storm to win: As long as they don't go into the game complacent (and that's hard to see with the ever-intense Craig Bellamy in their ears) the Storm should be keen to cut loose and put some points on the board after last week's low-scoring arm-wrestle with the Warriors.
For the Raiders to win: If Aidan Sezer doesn't return, a lot of responsibility again falls on the shoulders of Sam Williams and Blake Austin to steer the ship. The other factor for the Raiders is last week's loss to Cronulla. Has it left them mad and hungry for a win or will they turn up dejected and mentally defeated after the first 10 minutes?
Storm Stat Attack: Melbourne suffered losses against Canberra in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2016 but they've been dominant recently, winning five of their past six against the Raiders. Billy Slater has won 20 of his 24 games against the Green Machine.
Raiders Stat Attack: Canberra are the best attacking team in the league but have struggled against the competition's better sides, losing all seven of their games against teams currently in the top eight.
And another thing: Coaches Ricky Stuart and Craig Bellamy played for five years together at the Raiders. Bellamy took on the Melbourne coaching job in 2003 and has won almost 70 per cent of 400-plus games. Stuart has less than 400 games under his belt as coach of four different clubs and an overall 49 per cent winning strike rate.
Fullback for Storm is number 1 Billy SlaterFullback for Raiders is number 1 Brad Abbey
Winger for Storm is number 2 Suliasi VunivaluWinger for Raiders is number 3 Nick Cotric
Centre for Storm is number 3 Will ChambersCentre for Raiders is number 12 Elliott Whitehead
Centre for Storm is number 4 Curtis ScottCentre for Raiders is number 4 Joseph Leilua
Winger for Storm is number 5 Josh Addo-CarrWinger for Raiders is number 5 Jordan Rapana
Five-Eighth for Storm is number 6 Cameron MunsterFive-Eighth for Raiders is number 6 Blake Austin
Halfback for Storm is number 7 Jahrome HughesHalfback for Raiders is number 7 Sam Williams
Prop for Storm is number 8 Jesse BromwichProp for Raiders is number 15 Luke Bateman
Hooker for Storm is number 9 Cameron SmithHooker for Raiders is number 9 Josh Hodgson
Prop for Storm is number 10 Nelson Asofa-SolomonaProp for Raiders is number 10 Junior Paulo
2nd Row for Storm is number 11 Felise Kaufusi2nd Row for Raiders is number 11 Joseph Tapine
2nd Row for Storm is number 17 Joe Stimson2nd Row for Raiders is number 17 Iosia Soliola
Lock for Storm is number 14 Kenneath BromwichLock for Raiders is number 13 Josh Papalii
Interchange for Storm is number 13 Dale FinucaneInterchange for Raiders is number 8 Dunamis Lui
Interchange for Storm is number 15 Tim GlasbyInterchange for Raiders is number 14 Liam Knight
Interchange for Storm is number 16 Christian WelchInterchange for Raiders is number 16 Siliva Havili
Interchange for Storm is number 20 Cheyse BlairInterchange for Raiders is number 18 Jack Murchie
Storm: Joe Stimson will start for the injured Ryan Hoffman (neck), while Dale Finucane drops to the bench and Kenny Bromwich starts at lock. Cheyse Blair has been elevated from the reserves to the bench.
Raiders: Ricky Stuart has made several late changes. Michael Oldfield is out, with Jordan Rapana to start on the right wing. Nick Cotric moves from centre to left winger, while Elliott Whitehead switches from the back-row to centre. Luke Bateman will start at prop in place of Dunamis Lui, who goes back to the bench. Sia Soliola is the new starting back-rower and Jack Murchie is the new face on the bench.
Head-to-head: Played 40; Storm 29 wins, Raiders 11 wins
Previous result: Storm won 32-6 at AAMI Park in round 26, 2017
Points per game: Storm 22.9; Raiders 24.9
Points conceded per game: Storm 15.1; Raiders 21.7
Televised: Live on Nine, Fox League
Petero Civoniceva's prediction: The Raiders have been a bit of a bogey side for Melbourne at times but I'm not sure if that will be the case this week. The Storm went over to New Zealand and got a gritty win in a tough place to play. They defended like a premiership side defends and look like they're warming up for the finals. The Raiders were disappointing in the first half against Cronulla and showed a lot of spirit to fight back, but it's a tough ask this week.
Tip: Storm by 12