Broncos v Storm preview - 2017 Round 17

Brisbane Broncos v Melbourne Storm Friday 7:50pm at Suncorp Stadium

Top four battle royale shapes as leaders take on challengers.

Two of the most successful sides in the NRL era come together as Melbourne try to shake off their golden point loss against a Brisbane side that looks to have turned the corner. The Broncos welcomed back Ben Hunt who came off the bench to inspire them over Canberra Raiders, which validated Wayne Bennett's decision to drop the halfback to Intrust Super Cup the week before. 

Melbourne rested their stars against the Sydney Roosters and almost pulled off a wonderful victory, but for a golden Mitch Pearce field goal - now they welcome back their big three to take on the Broncos in a match that has produced some classic finishes; starting with the 2006 Grand Final, as well as earlier this season in Round 3, when the Storm edged the Broncos out 14-12 in a defensive battle. 

Looking forward to Friday night - Melbourne are just so well run that despite not having the big three they pushed a very good Roosters side to the limit and now, Cronk will help to limit a potent back three for the Broncos with his kicking not to mention the link with the edge forwards in Felise Kaufusi and Nelson Asofa-Solomona to test out the Broncos middle. 

For the home side the big challenge is the ever-growing list of injuries as Corey Oates might be in doubt added to Darius Boyd and Anthony Milford being unavailable. Benji Marshall has deputised well for the side and turned back the clock with some of his touches last weekend so if he can link up with Hunt and that backline could make for another intensive contest to round off the Friday night.

Last meeting: Round 3 2017 - Storm 14 Broncos 12

Melbourne are dominant in this fixture historically, with 27 wins to 13 over 41 matches (one draw) since they entered the competition in 1998. The Storm have rocked up to Suncorp 16 times since then for 12 wins and four losses - a truly enviable record at Queensland's home of football.

Who to watch: Benji Marshall reminded everyone of the player he was before the dramas at both Wests Tigers and St George Illawarra as he provided some classy touches to get the Broncos over the Raiders. If the five-eighth has three or four chances that lead to points, it could be enough to break down a Storm side that has been brilliant defensively this season. 

For the Storm, Young Tonumaipea has a tough task on his plate marking one of the more elusive centres in the game in James Roberts - he scored a delightful try in round three and if Tonumaipea can keep the Country star quiet it will shut down a major option for the Broncos in the backline.

The favourite: Melbourne are better backed by the bookies here and given their standing on the table, playing stock back and record at Suncorp.

My tip: Brisbane will need to be on their game but I think the Storm are too hard to resist especially with Cronk, Slater and Smith back. Storm by 2.

1. Jordan Kahu 21. Jonus Pearson 3. James Roberts 4. Tautau Moga 5. David Mead 6. Benji Marshall 17. Ben Hunt 8. Korbin Sims 9. Andrew McCullough 10. Adam Blair 14. Alex Glenn 12. Matt Gillett 13. Josh Mcguire 7. Kodi Nikorima 11. Sam Thaiday 15. Tevita Pangai 18. Joe Ofahengaue

1. Billy Slater 2. Suliasi Vunivalu 3. William Chambers 20. Curtis Scott 5. Josh Addo-Carr 6. Cameron Munster 7. Cooper Cronk 8. Jesse Bromwich 9. Cameron Smith 10. Tim Glasby 11. Felise Kaufusi 12. Tohu Harris 13. Dale Finucane 14. Nelson Asofa-Solomona 16. Kenneath Bromwich 17. Joe Stimson 18. Mark Nicholls

Referees: Ashley Klein, Adam Gee; Sideline Officials: Michael Wise, Belinda Sleeman; Video Referees: Bernard Sutton, Ben Galea;

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