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It's fitting that the biggest match of the season so far be played in front of a sold out crowd at Suncorp Stadium in Magic Round.

With both sides boasting 8-1 records and sitting first and second on the ladder the hype will build throughout the week before the last two premiers square off on Saturday night.

For 2020 champions Melbourne, the injuries to star halfback Jahrome Hughes, fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen and centre Reimis Smith leaves some big holes to fill but such is their depth that few expect them to miss a beat.

For defending premiers Penrith the motivation is two-fold - making amends for a shock loss to the Eels in round nine and taking down the team that most regard as the biggest threat to back-to-back titles.

Sportsbet Betting preview: Storm v Panthers

The Rundown

Team news

Storm: Rookie playmaker Cooper Johns will replace Jahrome Hughes (calf) after the Kiwis halfback failed a late fitness test and was forced to join star fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen (hamstring/knee) in the grand stand. It will the eighth NRL appearance and first this season for the son of former Kangaroos five-eighth Matt Johns. The 22-year-old will join Tyran Wishart, the son of fellow former Kangaroos star, Rod Wishart, in an experienced Storm spine. After originally naming Nick Meaney in the No.1 to replace Papenhuyzen, coach Craig Bellamy opted on Friday to promote Wishart from the bench to to fullback and send Meaney back to his usual wing spot. Dean Ieremia drops out and Tui Kamikamica is the new face on the bench.

Centre Reimis Smith (pectoral) is also out and the NRL has granted approval for development squad member Marion Seve to be selected. 

Panthers: Bench forward Scott Sorensen returns after missing the Eels game due to illness so Matt Eisenhuth goes back to the reserves list. 

There were no further changes to the squad to the side, but coach Ivan Cleary will miss the clash after undergoing a second knee surgery. Assistant coaches Andrew Webster and Cameron Ciraldo will take control of the side, as they did last week against the Eels.

Team Lists

Backs

  • Fullback for Storm is number 15 Tyran Wishart
    Fullback for Panthers is number 1 Dylan Edwards
  • Winger for Storm is number 1 Nick Meaney
    Winger for Panthers is number 2 Taylan May
  • Centre for Storm is number 3 Marion Seve
    Centre for Panthers is number 3 Izack Tago
  • Centre for Storm is number 4 Justin Olam
    Centre for Panthers is number 4 Stephen Crichton
  • Winger for Storm is number 5 Xavier Coates
    Winger for Panthers is number 5 Brian To'o
  • Five-Eighth for Storm is number 6 Cameron Munster
    Five-Eighth for Panthers is number 6 Jarome Luai
  • Halfback for Storm is number 18 Cooper Johns
    Halfback for Panthers is number 7 Nathan Cleary

Forwards

  • Prop for Storm is number 8 Jesse Bromwich
    Prop for Panthers is number 8 Moses Leota
  • Hooker for Storm is number 9 Harry Grant
    Hooker for Panthers is number 9 Apisai Koroisau
  • Prop for Storm is number 10 Nelson Asofa-Solomona
    Prop for Panthers is number 10 James Fisher-Harris
  • 2nd Row for Storm is number 11 Felise Kaufusi
    2nd Row for Panthers is number 11 Viliame Kikau
  • 2nd Row for Storm is number 12 Kenneath Bromwich
    2nd Row for Panthers is number 12 Liam Martin
  • Lock for Storm is number 13 Josh King
    Lock for Panthers is number 13 Isaah Yeo

Interchange

  • Interchange for Storm is number 14 Brandon Smith
    Interchange for Panthers is number 14 Mitch Kenny
  • Interchange for Storm is number 16 Trent Loiero
    Interchange for Panthers is number 15 Scott Sorensen
  • Interchange for Storm is number 17 Chris Lewis
    Interchange for Panthers is number 16 Spencer Leniu
  • Interchange for Storm is number 23 Tui Kamikamica
    Interchange for Panthers is number 17 Jaeman Salmon

Reserves

  • Replacement for Storm is number 21 Jayden Nikorima
    Replacement for Panthers is number 18 Robert Jennings

Match Officials

  • Referee: Ashley Klein
  • Touch Judge: Wyatt Raymond
  • Touch Judge: Nick Beashel
  • Senior Review Official: Grant Atkins

Last updated:

Key match-up

Jahrome Hughes v Nathan Cleary: In a heavyweight showdown that boasts mouth-watering duels across the park, including Harry Grant v Api Koroisau and Cameron Munster v Jarome Luai, it's the halfbacks who'll have the biggest say. After missing the first three rounds of the season, Cleary has been at his majestic best, racking up seven try assists and 15 tackle breaks as well as forcing eight dropouts with his pinpoint kicks. Hughes is a proven big-game performer whose 34 tackle breaks, six try assists and six line breaks have been pivotal to the Storm's stunning start to 2022.

Stat attack

The NRL's two most potent sides match motors here. Melbourne have piled on an incredible 162 points in their past three matches and are averaging 37 points per game while the Panthers are going at 28ppg. Defensively they boast identical records with 110 points conceded at a miserly 12 per game. 

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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