Infotainment Factory: NRL Preview: Melbourne Storm vs Parramatta Eels - Round 23

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Thursday, 16 August 2018

NRL Preview: Melbourne Storm vs Parramatta Eels - Round 23


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David Middleton’s Game Preview: Melbourne v Parramatta

 

Late change for Storm

Talented halfback Jahrome Hughes was a victim of the Storm’s short turnaround after last Sunday’s clash with Cronulla, failing to recover from a strained medial ligament. His place against the Eels will be taken by 21-year-old Brodie Croft, who will make his eighth appearance of the season for the Storm. Croft was touted as the heir apparent to Cooper Cronk as the Storm’s No. 7 but failed to cement a place in the team after producing unconvincing form over the opening five rounds. Ryley Jacks stepped up and performed steadily in the role but it has been Hughes who has overtaken both halves with his creative skills.

 

Storm hits turbulence

The Storm had posted eight successive wins by Round 20 and were powering towards another minor premiership title but struck trouble against a potent South Sydney team at ANZ Stadium. A week later they paid heavily for a slow start against Cronulla and suddenly, Craig Bellamy’s men are staring down the barrel at a third straight loss. They have not dropped three in a row since 2015.

Eels formidable foes

The Storm may not have matters all their own way tonight, despite the relative positions of these teams on the competition ladder. The Eels stretched Melbourne all the way the last time they met – in a 2017 qualifying final at AAMI Park and that was after winning their previous two games at the southern venue. The Eels have defeated the Storm in three of the past four head-to-head clashes.

 

Eels in peak form

It has been a season to forget for the Eels but they have taken some steps towards redemption from their fans with a strong finish to the year. They were firming as wooden spoon favourites until a run of three wins from their past four games has finally lifted them, at least temporarily, clear of last place. Over the past month, the Eels boast the best defensive record in the competition (they have conceded only 50 points) and only the Roosters have achieved a superior winning record.

Inside knowledge

Like South Sydney’s Anthony Seibold, Eels coach Brad Arthur has intimate knowledge of the inner workings of the Storm after spending five years on the coaching staff of the club under Craig Bellamy. Arthur worked at the Storm from 2006 to 2010 and during that time took the Storm’s Under-20s to a premiership title in the Toyota Cup (2009). The team included current Storm prop Jesse Bromwich and other prominent NRL players including Gareth Widdop, Justin O’Neill, Jordan McLean, Kevin Proctor and Robbie Rochow

 

The Commander of AAMI Park

Back in the 1980s Wally Lewis was known as the Emperor of Lang Park for his dominance of the Cauldron at all levels of the game. These days there are few players who have had a greater influence over the fortunes of a team at a single playing venue than Cameron Smith has for the Storm at AAMI Park. The rectangular arena was opened in 2010 and for almost a decade Smith has been the architect of scores of victories for his club. Tonight, he becomes the first player to appear in 100 NRL games at the venue and his record is remarkable: 99 games; 78 wins, 20 losses and one draw for a winning percentage of 78.8.

What’s at stake

For Melbourne, a victory tonight will lift them back to the top of the ladder, at least until the Roosters battle the Raiders for two competition points this Sunday. The Storm are in the running for a third consecutive minor premiership title and a fourth overall (another three minor titles were stripped for salary cap breaches). A loss could leave them in fourth place by the end of the round and in danger of slipping from the top four. The Eels need to keep winning to avoid collecting their third wooden spoon in the space of seven seasons.

 

The verdict

The Storm will need to show a healthy level of respect for the Eels or a two-week lull could turn into a mini-slump only a few weeks out from the finals. Coach Craig Bellamy will have stressed the importance of urgency and intensity against a Parramatta side who have emerged from a woeful period to play their most constructive football of the season. The Eels will be sure to make a contest of this clash but the Storm should have the class to see them off. Storm by 2.

David Middleton’s Game Preview: Melbourne v Parramatta

 

Late change for Storm

Talented halfback Jahrome Hughes was a victim of the Storm’s short turnaround after last Sunday’s clash with Cronulla, failing to recover from a strained medial ligament. His place against the Eels will be taken by 21-year-old Brodie Croft, who will make his eighth appearance of the season for the Storm. Croft was touted as the heir apparent to Cooper Cronk as the Storm’s No. 7 but failed to cement a place in the team after producing unconvincing form over the opening five rounds. Ryley Jacks stepped up and performed steadily in the role but it has been Hughes who has overtaken both halves with his creative skills.

 

Storm hits turbulence

The Storm had posted eight successive wins by Round 20 and were powering towards another minor premiership title but struck trouble against a potent South Sydney team at ANZ Stadium. A week later they paid heavily for a slow start against Cronulla and suddenly, Craig Bellamy’s men are staring down the barrel at a third straight loss. They have not dropped three in a row since 2015.

Eels formidable foes

The Storm may not have matters all their own way tonight, despite the relative positions of these teams on the competition ladder. The Eels stretched Melbourne all the way the last time they met – in a 2017 qualifying final at AAMI Park and that was after winning their previous two games at the southern venue. The Eels have defeated the Storm in three of the past four head-to-head clashes.

 

Eels in peak form

It has been a season to forget for the Eels but they have taken some steps towards redemption from their fans with a strong finish to the year. They were firming as wooden spoon favourites until a run of three wins from their past four games has finally lifted them, at least temporarily, clear of last place. Over the past month, the Eels boast the best defensive record in the competition (they have conceded only 50 points) and only the Roosters have achieved a superior winning record.

Inside knowledge

Like South Sydney’s Anthony Seibold, Eels coach Brad Arthur has intimate knowledge of the inner workings of the Storm after spending five years on the coaching staff of the club under Craig Bellamy. Arthur worked at the Storm from 2006 to 2010 and during that time took the Storm’s Under-20s to a premiership title in the Toyota Cup (2009). The team included current Storm prop Jesse Bromwich and other prominent NRL players including Gareth Widdop, Justin O’Neill, Jordan McLean, Kevin Proctor and Robbie Rochow

 

The Commander of AAMI Park

Back in the 1980s Wally Lewis was known as the Emperor of Lang Park for his dominance of the Cauldron at all levels of the game. These days there are few players who have had a greater influence over the fortunes of a team at a single playing venue than Cameron Smith has for the Storm at AAMI Park. The rectangular arena was opened in 2010 and for almost a decade Smith has been the architect of scores of victories for his club. Tonight, he becomes the first player to appear in 100 NRL games at the venue and his record is remarkable: 99 games; 78 wins, 20 losses and one draw for a winning percentage of 78.8.

What’s at stake

For Melbourne, a victory tonight will lift them back to the top of the ladder, at least until the Roosters battle the Raiders for two competition points this Sunday. The Storm are in the running for a third consecutive minor premiership title and a fourth overall (another three minor titles were stripped for salary cap breaches). A loss could leave them in fourth place by the end of the round and in danger of slipping from the top four. The Eels need to keep winning to avoid collecting their third wooden spoon in the space of seven seasons.

 

The verdict

The Storm will need to show a healthy level of respect for the Eels or a two-week lull could turn into a mini-slump only a few weeks out from the finals. Coach Craig Bellamy will have stressed the importance of urgency and intensity against a Parramatta side who have emerged from a woeful period to play their most constructive football of the season. The Eels will be sure to make a contest of this clash but the Storm should have the class to see them off. Storm by 2.

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