The tough games keep rolling for the Brisbane Broncos as they travel to the deep south to take on the ever-consistent Melbourne Storm. The Broncos will be preparing themselves to play a Storm side that will undoubtedly be buoyed by the return of favourite son Billy Slater.
Melbourne put on a clinical display in average conditions against the New Zealand Warriors in Auckland. With the rain bucketing down, the Storm really displayed why they are one of the most consistent teams in the competition. In a game where players could be excused for ball control not being at its best, Melbourne had only seven handling errors for the entire game. With conditions expected to again be wet at AAMI park, the Storm will not be giving up any easy ball.
Cooper Cronk as usual had the ball on a string and was asking questions of the Warriors defense all night with his kicking game, and will no doubt be doing the same to the Brisbane side looking to wear out their pack. Cameron Smith, try-scoring sensation Suliasi Vunivalu and ever-reliable prop Jordan Mclean all put up their hands to ensure Cronk was ably assisted in the win over the Warriors last week.
It would be an unenviable job that Wayne Bennett has this week coming up with a game plan to nullify the purple machine from Victoria. Looking at the team list from 1-17 and with the added inclusion of Slater, there are not too many chinks in the armour.
In a game that was to be expected from the two Queensland teams that appear to have a healthy respect for one another, Brisbane had to watch again as Johnathon Thurston broke the hearts of Brisbane again, with a field goal in the 87th minute to seal the win. Luckily the two sides get a break from each other and will not face off again until the final round of the 2017 season.
It was not all doom and gloom for Brisbane, as James Roberts again showed that there is no substitute for speed as he snapped up a grubber from Ben Hunt to get Brisbane on the board. Roberts’ passing though would be the subject of conjecture later in the game when he delivered a pass to Kahu that not only a NFL quarter back would be proud of but, NRL officials later admitting that they may have got the ruling wrong. For 47,000 fans at Suncorp it was a line ball at best.
For all of the heat that has been sent his way, Ben Hunt bounced back to produce a game that had a lot for Brisbane fans to like. Hunt put in a performance that will have critics of his kicking game sitting up and taking note as he delivered not only an accurate grubber for Roberts’ first try, but also finding the line for a 40/20 that put Brisbane into a great attacking position during the first half.
Another pleasing sight for Brisbane fans was the workhorse performance of Josh McGuire. Australian representative McGuire managed 71 minutes on the field during the torrid affair and racked up 44 tackles and 153 metres, a performance that Corey Parker himself would be proud of. Young Brisbane forward Herman Ese’ese had statisticians busy amassing 18 runs for an impressive 176 metres. The Broncos engine room will need to be firing on all cylinders to give the Broncos a fighting chance of taking the two points off Melbourne.
Players to Watch
Billy Slater: There is a lot to prove for Billy Slater. Rumours have been swirling of late that Slater’s career was pretty much over, and the NRL had seen the last of possibly the greatest full-back of the modern era. Billy the kid will be wanting to show everyone that “that” shoulder has in fact recovered and he is able to reclaim his number one jersey that has been aptly filled by Cameron Munster.
Darius Boyd: Coming up against Maroons and Australian team mate Slater, Boyd will be keen to show that he is worthy of holding on to the title of the game’s best number one. Having a W on the board as Captain over last year’s Premiers and pushing possibly a contender for this year’s Grand Final to golden point again, he would be keen to ensure his captaincy continues to be successful. Expect to see Boyd deliver another great captain’s knock from the back.
Prediction: With weather conditions in Melbourne is predicted to be 25 degrees and wet, this will suit the Storm on their home ground. Both sides contain attacking flair but slippery conditions will more than likely see the Storm revert to choke Brisbane out of the game and dominate through the middle third. Brisbane’s forward pack will really need to stand up with the clever kicking game of Smith and Cronk limiting the Broncos time in the red zone. With Brisbane not settling on the side until the completion of the Captain’s run and the inclusion of one B. Marshall, Wayne Bennett’s men may have a few surprises in store for the Storm.