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Storm vs Eels (Round 18) OFFICIAL GAME DAY BLOG
Date: Saturday 8th of July
Venue: AAMI Park
Gates Open: **Information unknown**
Kick off: 7:30 pm (NYC 2:45, different ground)
Head Referee: Gavin Badger
Assistant Referee: Jon Stone
Head to head: Played 31, Storm 19, Eels 12
Head to head odds: Eels ($ 1.58), Storm ($ 2.45)
Broadcast: Live Fox Sports (Broadcast kick off: 7:30pm)
Last four encounters:
01. Storm 18, Eels 6 at Pirtek Stadium (2016)
02. Eels 26, Storm 22 at AAMI Park (2015)
03. Storm 28, Eels 10 at Pirtek Stadium (2015)
04. Storm 46, Eels 20 at AAMI Park (2014)
Preview: This weekend’s Saturday night round eighteen encounter will feature a battle between the 1st placed state of origin depleted Melbourne Storm and the 8th placed in form Parramatta Eels. Both teams enter this one of the back of a win and both teams also have scored two wins from their last three games. The Storm would usually be the favourites for this one considering they are placed at a top of the NRL ladder and this game will take place at their home ground at AAMI Park in Melbourne. However the Storm are not the favourites for this encounter considering they are missing a number of stars due to state of origin duties including their entire playmaking spine (Billy Slater, Cameron Munster, Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith). Despite the fact the Storm are missing a number of players for this one, they are not to be underestimated and have proved in the past they can win without their big name players, the Eels would do well to take this baby Storm line up as a seriously threat.
Value Bet: This weeks value bet is for the Parramatta Eels to score a victory over the Melbourne Storm at the line, meaning the Eels will defeat the Storm despite a -4.5 margin; this line is at $1.91 (all odds via Sportsbet). As for the first try favourites for this one the Storm have Suliasi Vunivalu at $8 and Josh Addo Carr out at $12 whereas the Parramatta Eels have Semi Radradra at $7.50 then Bevan French out at $9.
Interesting fact: The Eels have won 4 of their past 5 games, although all those victories have been against sides whom are currently sitting outside the top, the Dragons being the only top eight team the Eels have defeated in their past 4 victories.
It will be a big game for: Kenny Edwards. This game shapes as a big one for Eels back rower Kenny Edwards. So far this season Edwards has dished out a mixed bag of performances some good, some ordinary. Thursday night’s Bulldogs game being Edwards’s most ordinary performance in a long time and saying he was ordinary may just be putting it nicely, some would say Edwards almost lost the game for Eels against the Bulldogs and if it hadn’t been for the heroics of both Mitchell Moses and Nathan Brown the Eels may have been defeated. Edwards came up with two shocking plays in particular that led to Bulldogs points, the first being a very unnecessary penalty Edwards gave away in the first half of the game allowing the Bulldogs to take a penalty goal. Then after that Edwards attempted to take an intercept on a last tackle Bulldogs play, an intercept that was very unnecessary in the context of the game and forced the Eels to defend a second third set in a row on their own goal line, this pressure would prove to much as the Eels would cave and the Bulldogs grabbed their first try of the match during the second half. Some could say Edwards cost the Eels 8 points in that game, although despite the errors and penalties Edwards statistics didn’t look to bad, perhaps the only thing that may have saved him from a stint in reserve grade this weekend. Edwards has had his fair share of brain snaps during his time at the Eels most memorably earlier season when he was sin binned in a game against the Cowboys for slapping their club captain Gavin Cooper. However when it comes down to it Edwards is quite the handy first grade football and is blessed with a fair amount of talent, however he could be an even better player if he cleans up an area of his game regarding to discipline. Another performance like the one dished out in round 17 against the Bulldogs may see Edwards in a Wentworthville jersey next week as apposed to an Eels jersey, thus making this game a big one for the Eels Kenny Edwards.
Danger man: This weeks danger man is Storm Fijian flyer Suliasi Vunivalu. Over the past couple of season Vunivalu has earned a reputation as one of the games most devastating ball runners and the fact he’s a winger makes that even more impressive. Vunivalu has also been earmarked as the NRL’s next Semi Radradra whom ironically Vunivalu will come against this weekend, maybe even head to head on a few occasions. Vunivalu is one of the games best finishers and really knows how to find the try line, the Eels would do well to mark him heavily in attack, the fact he is such a potent attacking weapon for the Storm out on their flank makes him this weeks danger man (from an Eels perspective).
Melbourne Storm (1st place coming into the round)
01. Jahrome Hughes
02. Suliasi Vunivalu
03. Curtis Scott
04. Cheyse Blair
05. Josh Addo Carr
06. Ryley Jacks
07. Brodie Croft
08. Jesse Bromwich (C)
09. Slade Griffin
10. Nelson Asofa Solomona
11. Felise Kaufusi
12. Tohu Harris
13. Dale Finucane
14. Kenneath Bromwich
15. Nate Myles
16. Mark Nicholls
17. Joe Stimson
18. Tui Kamikamica
19. Young Tonumaipea
20. Justin Olam
21. Robbie Rochow
Coach: Craig Bellamy
Late mail: No late changes expected for the Storm, there was some doubt over Tohu Harris and Jesse Bromwich earlier in the week but both are expected to play, with Nate Myles making his club debut from the bench.
Parramatta Eels (8th coming into the round)
01. Clinton Gutherson
02. Semi Radradra
03. Michael Jennings
04. Brad Takairangi
05. Bevan French
06. Corey Norman
07. Mitchell Moses
08. Daniel Alvaro
09. Cameron King
10. Tim Mannah (C)
11. Manu Ma’u
12. Tepai Moeroa
13. Nathan Brown
14. David Gower
15. Kenny Edwards
16. Suaia Matagi
17. Will Smith
18. Siosaia Vave
19. Marata Nuikore
20. Kirisome Auva’a
21. John Folau
Coach: Brad Arthur
Late mail: Manu Ma’u is considered a 50/50 chance to play in this one with the latest news suggesting he won’t take his place in the Eels 17 come Saturday night. If Ma’u is ruled out expect either Marata Nuikore or Kirisome Auva’a to take his place in the 17, whether his replacement Nuikore or Auva’a starts is another question and won’t be known until the final line-ups are confirmed come Saturday afternoon.
2 key match ups:
01. Brodie Croft vs Mitchell Moses: The first key match up I would like to highlight for this weekends encounter between the Melbourne Storm and the Parramatta Eels will feature as a battle of the halfbacks as the Storm’s young gun Brodie Croft goes up against Eels superstar mid season signing Mitchell Moses. As you may remember in round seventeen’s game day preview between the Eels and Bulldogs I mentioned that since joining the Eels as a mid season transfer from the Wests Tigers Mitchell Moses had, had a number of mixed performances leading up to that game, so much so that Moses position as the Eels first choice halfback and in the Eels top 17 players had been questioned. Although with a strong showing against the Dragons a fortnight ago and a near man of the match performance against the Bulldogs last Thursday night its safe to say Mitchell Moses has well and truly silenced his critics for now. Moses was instrumental in the Eels victory against the Bulldogs running for 75 meters, producing 375 meters via kicks, two line break assists and the match winning field goal in golden point extra time in which Moses displayed the maturity and confidence of a player much more experienced then he. However in Moses performance against the Bulldogs there were two key features of Moses play that stood out to me. Number one Moses was able to find the ground on almost every single when of his kicks last Thursday night, effectively meaning Moses did not make life easy for the Bulldogs back three and as a result the Eels kick chase was able to gain the advantage over the Bulldogs kick return on a number of occasions off the back of Moses boot. The second part of Moses game that really impressed me was his defense, which has been a part of Moses game that he has coped a lot of criticism for, the Bulldogs sent a lot of traffic Moses way last Thursday night and Moses was well and truly up to the challenge making 21 tackles in total from 22 attempts, meaning Moses only missed the one tackle last Thursday which is a monumental improvement on past performances. Moses even delivered a fairly big hit on Bulldogs fullback Will Hopoate in which he was able to force an error from a player quite considerably larger than he was. Contributing to Moses development in defense could be the recent change in defensive structure where Eels centre Michael Jennings has switched from the left hand side of the field to the right in order to help Moses cope with his defensive workload. Jennings is a class player in every sense of the word and may even be the best defensive centre in the NRL at this point in time; its little wonder Moses looks more comfortable defending next to Jennings. The Eels will be hoping for another big performance from Mitchell Moses come this Saturday night against the Storm down in Melbourne. Speaking of the Storm we now move onto their young gun halfback Brodie Croft, who hasn’t played a lot of NRL in recent years however when he has, he has been more than impressive, proving he can cope with the rigours of playing in the modern day NRL. Croft made his debut for in the NRL last season against the Storm in which he had a fairly impressive game on debut against the St George Illawarra Dragons. Croft even has an impressive showing in this season’s Auckland nines in which he scored three tries throughout the two-day competition and was named in the 2017 Auckland nines team of the tournament. However its Croft’s most recent NRL game that comes to mind in which he was absolutely outstanding in the Storm’s win against the North Queensland Cowboys, Croft was the difference maker slotting the all important one pointer in golden point extra time to secure a Melbourne Storm victory against competition powerhouses the North Queensland Cowboys. Croft has been earmarked as the Storm’s long term option number seven and a replacement for Cooper Cronk he will depart the Storm at season end (at least in a game play context). Croft has been given the ultimate compliment from legends of the game, some suggesting he maybe the next Cooper Cronk as their style of play is fairly similar overall. One thing is for sure; status and notoriety won’t mean a thing this Saturday night and if the Storm are to defeat the Eels Brodie Croft will well and truly have to be on his game.
02. Dale Finucane vs Nathan Brown: The second match up I would like to highlight for this weekends Saturday night encounter between the Storm and Eels feature as a battle between lock forwards as Storm workhorse Dale Finucane squares off against Eels juggernaut Nathan Brown. As you may remember earlier in this preview I mentioned that Mitchell Moses put in a ‘near’ man of the match performance against the Bulldogs last Friday night. Well the only reason Moses’s performance against the Bulldogs wasn’t a ‘man of the match’ performance was because of Eels juggernaut lock forward Nathan Brown. Brown was instrumental and absolutely outstanding in the Eels 13 points to 12 victory against the Canterbury Bulldogs. Last Thursday night Brown made 246 meters from 28 runs, 43 tackles from 43 attempts, 1 offload and a tackle bust almost single handedly carrying the Eels forward pack to victory. In a night where the Eels forward pack was simply dominated by the much larger Bulldogs forward pack Brown was simply a stand out. And when it comes to Nathan Brown last Thursday night wasn’t an exception, Brown was has been outstanding for the Eels all season and has already been touted as the buy of the year by many experts of the game and understandably so. Brown has one more year remaining on his Eels deal after this season but considering Brown’s form throughout this season it shouldn’t be long until the Eels opt to upgrade and extend the lock forwards contract at the club. If Brown continues to play the fashion that he is now he may even be considered for Dally M lock forward of the year, which would mean Brown would effectively be named in the Dally M team for the year. Whilst state of origin three may take place next Wednesday night in Queensland and Nathan Brown won’t be apart of it for the New South Wales Blues he may have done himself a favour in order to be selected for the Blues in the future. Brown could be considered one of the games most promising young and up coming forwards and with New South Wales looking for some hard strong players to wear the sky blue jersey for a number of years to come Nathan Brown maybe hitting some good form at just the right time in his NRL career. One thing is for sure come this Saturday night future rep honours will be the last thing on Nathan Brown’s mind, Brown’s one and only focus will be how he can help lead the Parramatta Eels to victory against the Melbourne Storm down in Melbourne. Now moving to Melbourne Storm lock forward Dale Finucane whom is one man himself he maybe pushing for state of origin selection for New South Wales in the years to come. In comparison to Brown, Finucane is more of you modern day workhorse type of player, you know what your going to get from Finucane week in and week out and that’s 110% effort. Finucane is a sort of player that plays big minutes and does a lot of work and with the Storm short on troops this weekend one would suggest Finucane will have to be at his absolute best if the Melbourne Storm are to upset the Parramatta Eels. Finucane along with Jesse Bromwich will be the most experienced players in the Storms forward and perhaps top seventeen overall. If the Storm stand any chance of defeating the Eels come this Saturday night one would suggest both Jesse Bromwich and Dale Finucane would have to have had fairly strong games.
My tip: My tip for this one is pretty much based on the strength of both these line-ups and that suggests the Parramatta Eels should do it fairly easily against the Storm this Saturday night. However the Storm are never a team to be taken lightly and I expect them to challenge the Eels for at least some part of the game but in the end I expect the Eels to claim the victory as the baby Storm run out of legs. Put me down for an Eels victory, Eels 24, Storm 10.
Man of the match: Mitchell Moses, Clinton Gutherson or Nathan Brown
x2 on everything esspecially norman and the refs heavily favoured us tonight
Just something I noticed from the post gamer presser...
BA responds to question with Corey sitting next to him. There are no questions to Corey though. What was the point of sitting the presser if he's not addressed?