Rabbitohs v Storm: Jennings, Vunivalu out
Grand final preview, anyone? Friday night's clash at ANZ Stadium may not be the last time these two teams play at that ground in 2018.
This match has just about everything. A Rabbitohs side that has turned itself into the best attacking unit in the competition will run into a Melbourne outfit that is gathering steam at the right time of the year.
For all the talk of AAMI Park being a fortress for Craig Bellamy's teams, their away record over the past three season is superb. They lost three away matches in 2016, one in 2017 and have three losses outside of Victoria this year.
South Sydney weren't at their best against the Eels last weekend but were still able to get the win. If they're not on the ball all night against the Storm, the scoreboard won't be as kind to them.
Match: Rabbitohs v Storm
Round 21 -
Venue: ANZ Stadium
- Nine Network
- Fox League
- LIVE PASS
Key match-up: Damien Cook v Cameron Smith. After Smith's shock representative retirement denied us of a meeting between these two during the Origin series, their personal duel on Friday night will garner plenty of interest. Cook leads the NRL with 112 dummy-half runs, and many of them have had good results. Smith runs when he needs to, but it is his game management and passing and kicking skills which stand him at the top mountain. The clash of the season between a pair of superb No.9s.
For the Rabbitohs to win: When the three Burgess brothers are carting the ball up the middle of the field with gusto, Souths look like potential premiers. Cook, Adam Reynolds and Cody Walker all feed off the Englishmen. If that trio can all get over 100m running for the match, the Rabbitohs will be a great chance of winning.
For the Storm to win: Controlling the tempo of matches is a skill the Storm have mastered. When they're ahead they're great at chewing up time with sets of six designed to force the opposition to continually come out of their own danger zone. They want to turn the match into a grind. They rarely lose when they achieve that goal.
Rabbitohs Stat Attack: Forget about the Raiders, the Rabbitohs are the best attacking side in the Telstra Premiership. They have the most tries, the most line breaks, the most try assists and the most line-break assists. The much vaunted Storm defence is facing its toughest test of the year.
Storm Stat Attack: For all the credit heaped on the Storm over the last three years, could it be possible that they are still actually underrated? A grand final loss, a grand final win and top spot on the ladder this year is a great return. They've lost 14 (regular season) games since the start of 2016. Four NRL sides have lost at least that many matches in 2018 alone.
And another thing: Craig Bellamy said no to the Broncos when he agreed to re-sign with Melbourne. That move saw Rabbitohs coach Anthony Seibold installed as a candidate to take over from Wayne Bennett when his time with Brisbane ends. A win over Bellamy will only help Seibold's future employment opportunities.
Fullback for Rabbitohs is number 1 Alex JohnstonFullback for Storm is number 1 Billy Slater
Winger for Rabbitohs is number 2 Campbell GrahamWinger for Storm is number 21 Cheyse Blair
Centre for Rabbitohs is number 3 Hymel HuntCentre for Storm is number 3 Will Chambers
Centre for Rabbitohs is number 4 Dane GagaiCentre for Storm is number 4 Curtis Scott
Winger for Rabbitohs is number 14 Adam DoueihiWinger for Storm is number 5 Josh Addo-Carr
Five-Eighth for Rabbitohs is number 6 Cody WalkerFive-Eighth for Storm is number 6 Cameron Munster
Halfback for Rabbitohs is number 7 Adam ReynoldsHalfback for Storm is number 7 Jahrome Hughes
Prop for Rabbitohs is number 8 Thomas BurgessProp for Storm is number 8 Jesse Bromwich
Hooker for Rabbitohs is number 9 Damien CookHooker for Storm is number 9 Cameron Smith
Prop for Rabbitohs is number 10 George BurgessProp for Storm is number 10 Nelson Asofa-Solomona
2nd Row for Rabbitohs is number 11 John Sutton2nd Row for Storm is number 11 Felise Kaufusi
2nd Row for Rabbitohs is number 12 Angus Crichton2nd Row for Storm is number 12 Ryan Hoffman
Lock for Rabbitohs is number 13 Sam BurgessLock for Storm is number 13 Dale Finucane
Interchange for Rabbitohs is number 15 Cameron MurrayInterchange for Storm is number 14 Joe Stimson
Interchange for Rabbitohs is number 16 Jason ClarkInterchange for Storm is number 15 Tim Glasby
Interchange for Rabbitohs is number 17 Tevita TatolaInterchange for Storm is number 16 Christian Welch
Interchange for Rabbitohs is number 21 Braidon BurnsInterchange for Storm is number 17 Kenneath Bromwich
Rabbitohs: Robert Jennings was left out of the squad 24 hours out from kick-off, with Adam Doueihi named to start on the wing. Braidon Burns has been elevated from the reserves to the bench. Billy Brittain was omitted on Thursday night.
Storm: Prolific try scorer Suliasi Vunivalu was ruled out 24 hours out from kick-off. Cheyse Blair will start on the wing. Ryan Hoffman (shoulder) returns in the back row with Joe Stimson dropping to the bench. Dale Finucane starts at lock with Kenny Bromwich back to the bench. Albert Vete was cut 24 hours out from kick-off.
Head-to-head: Played 28; Storm 24 wins, Rabbitohs 4 wins
Previous result: Storm won 64-6 at AAMI Park in round 25, 2017
Points per game: Rabbitohs 24.1; Storm 24.0
Points conceded per game: Rabbitohs 17.2; Storm 14.8
Televised: Live on Nine, Fox League
Petero Civoniceva's prediction: What a cracker this should be - a top of the table clash at this time of the year. The Rabbitohs have stalled a little bit lately compared to how they were playing during their winning streak, but they showed a bit of class to claw their way back and get away with a win last week But they're aren't playing as well as the Storm and that's where I'm leaning. The Storm were clinical in their defeat of the Raiders and look primed for finals football. They've been more consistent than Souths over the last month.
Tip: Storm by 8