2 days ago
Storm v Warriors preview
Two special teams meet on a special evening.
While the Dragons v Roosters battle takes centre stage and has done for nearly two decades, the Storm v Warriors clash on ANZAC night has taken on its own importance over the years, bridging the divide between the two nations in a way the clash earlier in the day just can't do.
It's set to be another spine-tingling occasion, with the lights-out event at AAMI Park part of the pre-match ceremony again. The match always packs out the Swan Street stadium, and why wouldn't it when it flows on straight from the earlier AFL contest which packs the MCG?
To the contest itself - Melbourne and the Warriors come into this contest as two of the in-form teams in the competition. The Storm accounted for Brisbane comfortably last Friday night, while earlier the same evening, the Warriors turned in their best showing of the season to down the first-placed Dragons.
Melbourne endured a patchy, inconsitent start to the season but now sit four wins and three losses after back-to-back wins over Newcastle and Brisbane, but will be missing prop Jesse Bromwich (knee). Tim Glasby is promoted to the starting side with Joe Stimson added to the bench.
For the Warriors, they managed that important win over the Dragons without Shaun Johnson and Solomone Kata - and will be without the pair again on ANZAC Day. Tohu Harris failed concussion protocols after a head knock in Friday's game so he too will be missing - Isaiah Papali'i comes into the starting side for him in the second row. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad is added to the interchange as a result.
Last meeting: Round 8 2017 - Storm 20 Warriors 14
Last year's ANZAC clash was the second meeting of the season between the pair, with the eventual premiers victorious on both occasions (26-10 in Round 2, then 20-14 on ANZAC Day). Overall the sides have met 40 times with Melbourne winners on 22 occasions. They've met 8 times at AAMI Park with Melbourne holding sway there too, victors five times.
Who to watch: Melbourne's front row has a big job ahead this weekend. The Warriors are in irresistible form and while the Storm have started to hit their stride, they'll be without bustling prop Jesse Bromwich for this one. Tim Glasby and Nelson Asofa-Solomona have the gig packing in either side of captain and hooker Cameron Smith and will each need to rack up plenty of metres in their various shifts to lay a solid platform for the Melbourne halves.
Issac Luke looks to have hit the sweet spot in his later career - some 2+ years after moving to the Warriors. He was well and truly one of the Rabbitohs' best in his nine seasons in the cardinal and myrtle, not least of which included their 2014 premiership victory. He's finally in that renaissance period after a disappointing first couple of years back home in Auckland, and this year has been at the forefront of the Warriors' surge into title contention. Easily the man of the match in their win over ladder-leading St George Illawarra last Friday - and will be keen to put in a similar showing this Wednesday.
The favourite: Melbourne? At home? ANZAC Day? Yep, they're well backed.
My tip: As good as the Warriors have been, it's hard to go past a Storm side, in-form, at home, on ANZAC Day. So without any real confidence, it's Storm by 4.
1. Billy Slater 21. Young Tonumaipea 3. Will Chambers 4. Curtis Scott 5. Josh Addo-carr 6. Cameron Munster 7. Ryley Jacks 8. Tim Glasby 9. Cameron Smith 10. Nelson Asofa-Solomona 11. Felise Kaufusi 12. Ryan Hoffman 15. Christian Welch 14. Brandon Smith 13. Kenneath Bromwich 16. Sam Kasiano 17. Joe Stimson
1. Roger Tuivasa-sheck 2. David Fusitua 3. Peta Hiku 4. Anthony Gelling 5. Ken Maumalo 6. Blake Green 7. Mason Lino 8. Bunty Afoa 9. Issac Luke 10. Agnatius Paasi 11. Simon Mannering 12. Isaiah Papalii 13. Adam Blair 14. Jazz Tevaga 15. Sam Lisone 16. Albert Vete 20. Chris Satae