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3 hours ago | Tim Costello
Qualifying Final throws up questions galore
After a long season of fantastic rugby league we have come down to the business end of the season. This is what fans and players dream of. Playing finals football with the hope of Premiership glory. Both these clubs firmly believe that they will be there on the first Sunday in October and this game fronts as a wonderful opportunity for that with a preliminary final berth on the line for the winner.
The Storm have swept aside all challengers before it in the regular season and have done it with such gusto that punters have already pencilled them in as premiers for 2017. A sending off for the outgoing Cooper Cronk would be a great way to finish the year for the Melburnians but standing in front of them is a stubborn and resilient Parramatta side.
Despite injuries to key players the Eels have bounced back to finish in 4th place and will fancy themselves against the Storm. They have already beaten Melbourne this season in Melbourne although the Storm was without its host of Origin stars for the match.
The Storm will be sticking to its structure and the roles of each player whilst the Eels will throw the ball out early and try to use the pace and skill of Semi Radradra and Michael Jennings to trouble the Storm's edge defence.
Should be a cracking contest.
Last meeting: Round 18 2017 - Storm 6 Eels 22
Last finals meeting: Grand Final 2009 - Storm 23 Eels 16*
As mentioned earlier the Eels recorded the last victory between these two sides two months ago. In 5 trips to AAMI Park the Eels have won two games (those victories have occurred in its last two trips to the ground). Melbourne have a phenomenal home record with a win percentage of 75 from 98 matches at AAMI Park.
Who to watch: For the home side it will be Cooper Cronk to lead the way. Focus on his kicking game both long and short to trouble the Eels back three and gain a foothold early in on the contest. His attacking runs to the line and passing will also be heavily involved as he attempts to attract defenders and free up his outside attackers.
To counter attack the brilliant Cronk, Corey Norman has to have a blinder for Parra to stand a chance in this contest. Norman is a brilliant attacking runner of the football and if the Eels are to have success he needs to do that a lot on Saturday. Look for his short kicks behind the line for his quick men in an attempt to catch the Storm off guard.
The favourite: Melbourne favourites after a brilliant 2017 regular season and being at home.
My tip: As much as I want to tip an upset I can't go past this juggernaut of the Storm. They are playing far too well to slip up after last years heartbreak in the grand final. Craig Bellamy has this team finely tuned for a tilt at the Premiership. Parramatta will toil hard and make it difficult but it will be a bridge too far for the visitors. Storm by 8.
1. Billy Slater 2. Suliasi Vunivalu 3. William Chambers 4. Curtis Scott 5. Josh Addo-Carr 6. Cameron Munster 7. Cooper Cronk 8. Jesse Bromwich 9. Cameron Smith 10. Jordan McLean 11. Felise Kaufusi 12. Tohu Harris 13. Dale Finucane 14. Kenneath Bromwich 15. Nelson Asofa-Solomona 16. Tim Glasby 17. Slade Griffin
1. Will Smith 2. Semi Radradra 3. Michael Jennings 4. Brad Takairangi 5. Kirisome Auva'a 6. Corey Norman 7. Mitchell Moses 8. Daniel Alvaro 9. Cameron King 10. Tim Mannah 11. Manu Ma'u 12. Tepai Moeroa 13. Nathan Brown 14. Beau Scott 15. Kenny Edwards 16. Siosaia Vave 17. Suaia Matagi
Referees: Ben Cummins, Chris Sutton; Sideline Officials: Brett Suttor, Tim Roby; Video Referees: Jared Maxwell, Ben Galea;