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
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.
Fullback for Storm is number 15 Tyran WishartFullback for Panthers is number 1 Dylan Edwards
Winger for Storm is number 1 Nick MeaneyWinger for Panthers is number 2 Taylan May
Centre for Storm is number 3 Marion SeveCentre for Panthers is number 3 Izack Tago
Centre for Storm is number 4 Justin OlamCentre for Panthers is number 4 Stephen Crichton
Winger for Storm is number 5 Xavier CoatesWinger for Panthers is number 5 Brian To'o
Five-Eighth for Storm is number 6 Cameron MunsterFive-Eighth for Panthers is number 6 Jarome Luai
Halfback for Storm is number 18 Cooper JohnsHalfback for Panthers is number 7 Nathan Cleary
Prop for Storm is number 8 Jesse BromwichProp for Panthers is number 8 Moses Leota
Hooker for Storm is number 9 Harry GrantHooker for Panthers is number 9 Apisai Koroisau
Prop for Storm is number 10 Nelson Asofa-SolomonaProp for Panthers is number 10 James Fisher-Harris
2nd Row for Storm is number 11 Felise Kaufusi2nd Row for Panthers is number 11 Viliame Kikau
2nd Row for Storm is number 12 Kenneath Bromwich2nd Row for Panthers is number 12 Liam Martin
Lock for Storm is number 13 Josh KingLock for Panthers is number 13 Isaah Yeo
Interchange for Storm is number 14 Brandon SmithInterchange for Panthers is number 14 Mitch Kenny
Interchange for Storm is number 16 Trent LoieroInterchange for Panthers is number 15 Scott Sorensen
Interchange for Storm is number 17 Chris LewisInterchange for Panthers is number 16 Spencer Leniu
Interchange for Storm is number 23 Tui KamikamicaInterchange for Panthers is number 17 Jaeman Salmon
Replacement for Storm is number 21 Jayden NikorimaReplacement for Panthers is number 18 Robert Jennings
- Referee: Ashley Klein
- Touch Judge: Wyatt Raymond
- Touch Judge: Nick Beashel
- Senior Review Official: Grant Atkins
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.
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.
Match: Storm v Panthers
Round 10 -
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane