PF 1: Storm v Panthers preview

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Melbourne Storm v Penrith Panthers Saturday 4:00pm at Suncorp Stadium

Storm out to crush Penrith on route to a fifth grand final in six years.

More resilient than a cockroach in a nuclear blast, that's the Melbourne Storm, an immovable grand final pest. For over two decades, from the resurrection of deadbeats to the greats of the game, we've nearly seen it all.

So to Fox Sports and Nine, Gogglebox us this, where was the insert of Craig Bellamy during the Panthers-Eels slugfest?

Sure, viewers are used to the froth and spit, gutter language too. But the unseen joy, the thigh slapping belly laughs with each and every body whack would have rated its socks off.

In a semi final that ranks among the most brutal of the NRL era, extra time aside, it had everything the Storm coach could have wished for.

For the Panthers, they now have one week to patch up and back up, but can they?

One more hit to Nathan Cleary's shoulder could leave it spinning like grandad's garden sprinkler, then there's doubt over the fitness of metre eaters Viliame Kikau and Brian To'o.

The points too, for so long a season staple, have all but dried up.

It's not the case for Melbourne though. With Josh Addo-Carr named to return alongside inform 80s glamster Ryan Papenhuyzen, the Storm are poised to redline.

Last season Ivan Cleary's young bucks froze under the grand final spotlights, but a year on they'll be better for the experience. And despite last week's carnage in Mackay, the Panthers know what it takes to rattle Bellamy's cage.

Back in round 24 Parramatta frustrated the premiers into their most recent loss. Their defence was just as fast off the line in their round 2 victory, a formula Penrith repeated to down Melbourne again the very next week.

While plenty have jumped on Penrith's fumbling attack, what the mountain men haven't lost is a rigid ability to deny. Already the stingiest defensive unit, the three tries conceded in the past fortnight show the Storm won't have it all their own way.

Now in the countdown as the teams simmer, the message to fans of both sides should be to bite down on your mouthguard, hard. You're in for a wild ride where the winner can expect to kick on and claim the ultimate prize.

Last meeting: Round 20 2021 - Storm 37 Panthers 10

Who to watch: With Josh Addo-Carr's five year Melbourne stint drawing to a close, one more try will take the Foxx to a club record 24 in a season. But for Penrith tricksters Cleary and Jarome Luai, they'll be drawn to the Storm's right edge and finals rookies Reimis Smith and George Jennings. Having coasted home on the wave of a week-1 Manly blitz, the duo can expect an Origin style examination and even more attention at the first sign of doubt.

Tevita Pangai Junior's imposing footprint is sure to sound alarm bells through the Melbourne middle, but for chief nigglers Cameron Munster and Felise Kaufusi, it's the wrecking ball's red buttons that will have them eagerly rubbing their hands. The club-hopper set the Eels on the back foot, but his overreaction to a few choice words won't have gone unnoticed in Bellamy's seaside bunker.

The favourite: Despite sharing the spoils in the two clashes this season, Melbourne are the short priced favourites to make consecutive grand finals. But don't be fooled, Penrith have held their own against the Storm winning three of the past six.

My tip: For two seasons these sides have been head and shoulders above the rest of the field and up until the Rabbitohs' week-1 roadblock, the Panthers' shot at grand final redemption against the Storm seemed a formality. Now broken and bruised, a fresh and match hardened Melbourne are about to burst Penrith's Queensland bubble. Storm by 8.


1. Ryan Papenhuyzen 2. George Jennings 3. Reimis Smith 4. Justin Olam 5. Josh Addo-Carr 6. Cameron Munster 7. Jahrome Hughes 8. Jesse Bromwich 9. Brandon Smith 10. Christian Welch 11. Felise Kaufusi 12. Kenneath Bromwich 13. Dale Finucane 14. Harry Grant 15. Tui Kamikamica 16. Nelson Asofa-Solomona 17. Nicholas Hynes 19. Tom Eisenhuth

1. Dylan Edwards 2. Stephen Crichton 3. Paul Momirovski 4. Matt Burton 21. Brian To'o 6. Jarome Luai 7. Nathan Cleary 16. Tevita Pangai Junior 9. Apisai Koroisau 10. James Fisher-Harris 17. Liam Martin 12. Kurt Capewell 13. Isaah Yeo 11. Viliame Kikau 14. Tyrone May 15. Scott Sorensen 19. Spencer Leniu 5. Brent Naden


Referees: Gerard Sutton; Sideline Officials: Todd Smith, Dave Munro; Video Referees: Ashley Klein;



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