Storm v Eels: Hughes out for Storm, Mannah out Eels
Two losses on the trot in August? No-one saw that coming for the Storm.
And while it's anything but panic stations, talk of back-to-back premierships has certainly eased over the past fortnight.
The Storm have had weaknesses exposed by Souths and Cronulla and it must be of considerable concern to Craig Bellamy, despite the fact his team remains well placed to finish in the top four.
They won't have it easy on Friday night against an Eels side that put 40 on the Dragons in a runaway victory last week.
Parra are playing better than their position on the ladder would suggest and the Storm would be crazy to think they're in for an easy one.
Match: Storm vs Eels
Round 23 -
Venue: AAMI Park
- Nine Network
- Fox League
- LIVE PASS
Key match-up: Fresh of a first-half hat-trick in the rout of the Dragons, Jarryd Hayne will be relishing the challenge of taking on Melbourne's star-studded back-line. Former NSW Origin star Hayne will line up directly opposite current Blues sensation Josh Addo-Carr in a mouth-watering clash.
For the Storm to win: Uncharacteristically unable to fight their way out of trouble in their past two games, the premiers know they need to get their game in order. They have to patch up their defence and Cam Smith needs to prove he is still a clutch goal-kicker after a 1/3 performance against the Sharks.
For the Eels to win: It only took 22 rounds but the Eels finally ran on all cylinders last week. The Storm aren't as off their game as the Dragons but they're not their usual clinical selves. The Eels have to bring the same nothing-to-lose energy and emulate last week's positive start, with contributions all over the park for 80 minutes.
Storm Stat Attack: Melbourne completed 32/42 sets (76%) against the Sharks and missed 41 tackles. The previous week against Souths they completed 74% and missed 38 tackles. Craig Bellamy will be hoping those figures improve on Friday night.
Eels Stat Attack: Parra were on fire last week. The Eels had a whopping 61% of possession to their opponents' 39% and completed an eye-popping 41/44 sets (93%). The Dragons completed just 66%.
And another thing: Melbourne and Parramatta squared off in the 2009 grand final, with the Storm prevailing 23-16. Melbourne were playing in their fourth straight grand final, while the Eels memorably won nine of their final 12 games to finish eighth before winning three consecutive sudden death games to advance to the premiership decider. The Storm led all the way, withstanding a late fightback and sealing victory with a Greg Inglis field goal in the 77th minute.
Fullback for Storm is number 1 Billy SlaterFullback for Eels is number 1 Corey Norman
Winger for Storm is number 2 Suliasi VunivaluWinger for Eels is number 2 Jarryd Hayne
Centre for Storm is number 3 Will ChambersCentre for Eels is number 3 Michael Jennings
Centre for Storm is number 4 Curtis ScottCentre for Eels is number 4 Clinton Gutherson
Winger for Storm is number 5 Josh Addo-CarrWinger for Eels is number 5 George Jennings
Five-Eighth for Storm is number 6 Cameron MunsterFive-Eighth for Eels is number 6 Jaeman Salmon
Halfback for Storm is number 21 Brodie CroftHalfback for Eels is number 7 Mitchell Moses
Prop for Storm is number 8 Jesse BromwichProp for Eels is number 17 Siosaia Vave
Hooker for Storm is number 9 Cameron SmithHooker for Eels is number 9 Reed Mahoney
Prop for Storm is number 16 Christian WelchProp for Eels is number 12 Tepai Moeroa
2nd Row for Storm is number 11 Felise Kaufusi2nd Row for Eels is number 11 Marata Niukore
2nd Row for Storm is number 12 Joe Stimson2nd Row for Eels is number 15 Brad Takairangi
Lock for Storm is number 13 Dale FinucaneLock for Eels is number 13 Nathan Brown
Interchange for Storm is number 10 Nelson Asofa-SolomonaInterchange for Eels is number 8 Peni Terepo
Interchange for Storm is number 15 Tim GlasbyInterchange for Eels is number 14 Oregon Kaufusi
Interchange for Storm is number 17 Kenneath BromwichInterchange for Eels is number 16 David Gower
Interchange for Storm is number 18 Brandon SmithInterchange for Eels is number 20 Ray Stone
Storm: Jahrome Hughes is out, with Brodie Croft to start at halfback in jersey No.21. Cheyse Blair replaces the injured Ryan Hoffman (hamstring) on the bench. Brandon Smith is on the bench in jersey No.18. Tui Kamikamica was cut an hour out from kick-off, while Hughes and Albert Vete were omitted on Thursday night.
Eels: Tim Mannah is a late withdrawal, forcing coach Brad Arthur to make a few changes. Siosaia Vave will start at prop, with Tepai Moeroa moving from back-row to prop. Oregon Kaufusi is named to debut off the bench in place of Will Smith. Peni Teripo will come off the bench and Ray Stone has been elevated from the reserves to the bench. Cam King was cut an hour prior to kick-off, while Josh Hoffman and Bevan French were omitted 24 hours out from game time.
Head-to-head: Played 33; Storm 20 wins, Eels 13 wins
Previous result: Storm won 18-16 at AAMI Park in Finals Week 1, 2017
Points per game: Storm 23.3; Eels 16.9
Points conceded per game: Storm 15.7; Eels 21
Televised: Live on Nine, Fox League
Petero Civoniceva's prediction: What a turnaround it has been for the Eels, with Jarryd Hayne finding his best form. Unfotunately it has come too late but three wins in their past four games makes them a dangerous opponent for a Storm side coming off a rare home loss. Knowing the ultimate professional that Craig Bellamy is, he'll have his team back on track this week and they won't let Parra get under their guard.
Tip: Storm by 12