Date: Friday, 17th August, 2018
Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne
Kick Off: 7:50pm AEST
Head Referee: Gerard Sutton
Assistant Referee: Andrew Gee
Head-to-head: Played – 33 Wins – Storm 20, Eels 13
Odds: Eels $4.40 Storm $1.22
Broadcast: Foxtel, Nine from 7:30pm
Last Four Encounters:
1. Storm 18 def Eels 16 AAMI Park – Qualifying Final 2017
2. Eels 22 def Storm 6 10 AAMI Park – Round 18, 2017
3. Storm 18 def Eels 6 Pirtek Stadium – Round 11, 2016
4. Eels 26 def Storm 22 AAMI Park – Round 14, 2015
The Warm Up
Just on 12 months ago the Eels trekked down to AAMI Park to take on the Storm in Week 1 of the 2017 Finals series. Few gave the Eels a chance, and if not for a swag of controversial decisions, the Blue and Golds should have left Melbourne with a much-deserved victory.
Fast forward a year, and the Storm just keep on doing what they do best – taking up residence in the Top 4 of the Premiership. For the Eels, it’s almost as if that heart-breaking loss signalled a decline in their fortunes. The two teams occupy opposite ends of the table, a measure of the relative consistency of the respective outfits.
That said, recent form sees the Storm enter this clash on the back of two losses, with the Eels on a mini-run of three wins from their last four outings. It would take a brave soul to tip the Eels to get up in Melbourne, especially with the team now relying on rookie contract players due to their disastrous injury toll. Historically, the Eels have performed admirably against the table-topping Storm, winning 13 of their 33 clashes.
Essentially, the match is pitting the epitome of professionalism against a team with some momentum and little to lose. Pick your winner from that.
Having a Punt:
This week’s value bet (TAB) is a genuine punt! Look for Reed Mahoney to score a try at any time in the match @ $7.50
The first try favourites are listed below:
Eels: Hayne – $10
Storm: Vunivalu, Addo-Carr – both $7
Feed Your Footy Brain
The Eels have won 3 of their last 6 matches and conceded a total of 78 points in those games, an average of only 13 points per match. In the same period the Storm have won four of their last 6 games, conceding 106 points, at an average of just under 18 points per match.
Tracking: Mitch Moses
Last week I stated the following about Mitch Moses: “the team is his and it’s time to produce.”
Little did I suspect that he would rip out what was arguably his best performance in the Parra jersey. But one fine display does not vindicate him holding the reins to the team. Just like every other Eels player, the need for consistency is paramount.
Nonetheless, we all enjoyed the manner in which Moses orchestrated last week’s victory over the Dragons. His passes were decisive, his kicking game was strong and his willingness to take on the line returned. Whenever a halfback possesses a strong running game on top of game management skills, their stocks rise exponentially.
Hopefully this is the beginning of Moses realising his potential.
Danger man: Nelson Asofa-Solomona
NAS represents the sort of danger that Parramatta don’t possess – the very big and ridiculously mobile middle forward.
It’s little wonder that the Storm’s behemoth is on every club’s radar. Not only is Asofa-Solomona one of the biggest men in the NRL, he has surprising pace and a step, and his offload is an extra weapon in his arsenal.
The Eels forwards have returned to a swarming style of defence, and the average of 13 points conceded per game across their last 6 rounds is testimony to how hard they’re working. But none of those attacks boasted anyone like Asofa-Solomona. Containing him will take the Eels closer to a surprise victory.
Storm: 1. Billy Slater 2. Suliasi Vunivalu 3. Will Chambers 4. Curtis Scott 5. Josh Addo-Carr 6. Cameron Munster 21. Brodie Croft 8. Jesse Bromwich 9. Cameron Smith 10. Nelson Asofa-Solomona 11. Felise Kaufusi 12. Joe Stimson 13. Dale Finucane
Bench – 14. Cheyse Blair 15. Tim Glasby 16. Christian Welch 17. Kenneath Bromwich 18. Brandon Smith 19. Tui Kamikamica
Eels: 1. Corey Norman 2. Jarryd Hayne 3. Michael Jennings 4. Clint Gutherson 5.George Jennings 6. Jaeman Salmon 7. Mitchell Moses 8. Peni Terepo 9. Reed Mahoney 10. Tim Mannah 11. Marata Niukore 12. Tepai Moeroa 13. Nathan Brown
Bench – 14. Oregon Kaufusi 15. Brad Takairangi 16. David Gower 17. Siosaia Vave 20. Ray Stone 21. Cameron King
Corey Norman V Billy Slater
The Billy Slater Farewell Tour continues in this clash and why not. It’s redundant to write about his exploits because you’d have to be a hermit to not know or appreciate his skills. Essentially he, Smith and Cronk have been the key components of the Storm’s success.
Above all else, it’s been his capacity to return from debilitating injuries late in his career that has astounded me. Maybe his electrifying pace has waned a touch but he’s compensated for that in other aspects of his play.
For the Eels defence, that outside/inside set piece back to Slater must be watched. Everyone is aware that it’s coming at some stage, but few seem to shut it down effectively.
His opposite in this clash, Corey Norman, is now looking to establish himself in a different position late in his career. The shift from the halves to fullback became essential with Normz and Mitch Moses each wanting to be the dominant half.
If last week is any guide, the move to the custodian’s role could prove successful.
Arthur has signalled his intention to shift players during matches, and Norman, Hayne and Gutherson have the capacity to make that work. Look for similar shifts this week.
And The Winner Is?
Surprisingly, I see this match as a toss of the coin. The form line from the Eels is good enough to make this a contest, but they will need to get a bit of luck with decisions to score a win. I just don’t see that happening in Melbourne.
The key to the battle will be the forwards. Melbourne have a definite size advantage, but the Eels have worked well as a unit in recent weeks. They will need to at least match the Storm through the middle to give the backs a chance to add some magic.
I’m hoping for an Eels win, but being realistic in my tip.
Storm to win by 2
Storm 24 Eels 22
Man of the Match – Billy Slater