Round 21: Rabbitohs v Storm preview
Premiership contenders clash on neutral ground
Coming off an uncharacteristic high scoring loss to Cronulla, 39-24, last Saturday, the South Sydney Rabbitohs will be eyeing off a rare win against the competition leaders in order to strengthen their chances of a top four finish.
Winning just five of 30 matches against the Storm dating back to the late-90s, coach Wayne Bennett will be hoping to get the best out of his players for only the third daytime meeting between the two sides this decade.
Gaining a massive boost with captain Sam Burgess successfully having a carless high tackle charge downgraded at the judiciary on Tuesday night, the Rabbitohs will field an unchanged squad for the highly anticipated clash.
Sitting atop the premiership ladder with a six-point buffer, the Melbourne Storm will be out to all but guarantee their fourth minor premiership this decade with a win on Sunday afternoon.
Flexing their premiership credentials with an emphatic 40-4 victory over Brisbane last Friday, the Storm will have their sights set on making a strong impression in their first visit to Gosford in a decade.
Coming away with four wins from seven appearances at Central Coast Stadium, including two victories over the Rabbitohs with rosters subsequently deemed illegal, only two current players - Cameron Smith and Will Chambers - have represented Melbourne at the venue.
Losing Queensland forward Christian Welch for the remainder of the season with an ACL tear, Tui Kamikamica returns to the squad after being a mainstay during the first half of the season; however in-demand youngster Tino Fa'asuamaleaui may come into the final 17.
Set to join Canterbury-Bankstown next season on a three-year deal, emerging forward Joe Stimson will play his 50th game for the club.
Who to watch: Becoming only the seventh player to reach 200 appearances for the Storm earlier this season, Will Chambers will be eager to show how far he has come since making his first appearance at Gosford as a teenager. As one of only two remaining members of the Melbourne teams to defeat South Sydney at Bluetongue Stadium in the late 2000s, the 31-year-old Nhulunbury junior has since developed into one of the most accomplished outside backs of the modern era. Providing strong service on both sides of the field, look for Chambers to relish the chance to show emerging Rabbitohs centre Braidon Burns what it takes to succeed in the NRL with a starring performance on Sunday afternoon.
Providing solid service from fullback over the past month, Rabbitohs utility Adam Doueihi will be eager to make a mark in his first clash against the Storm since sustaining a torn ACL a year ago. Suffering the season-ending injury midway through the Rabbitohs 30-20 victory at ANZ Stadium in the corresponding fixture last August, the 22-year-old has eased his way back into the NRL with stints in the centres, halves and fullback since returning at the start of the representative period. Averaging just under 100 metres in seven appearances this season, look for the Lebanese international to provide a valuable spark capable of helping the Rabbitohs record consecutive wins in Gosford for the first time in eight years.