Mt Smart Stadium
The random NRL draw sees the Warriors take on the Storm for the second time inside 6 rounds. What more can I say about Melbourne and their spine that hasn’t already been covered? Their ‘big 3’ were again part of a victorious QLD side, and they are again the competition pace setters. The Warriors have had an interesting week, despite not taking the field - we gained 2 competition points though lost Krisnan Inu along the way. The Dogs came knocking, and he was off quicker than a bride’s nightie. In typical Krisnan style, he went on to produce a man-of-the-match display for the Bulldogs on Monday night. I for one am glad that saga is finally over, though I’ll be forever wondering ‘what might have been’.
Recent Form: The Warriors looked on track to upset the Tigers 2 weeks ago until a sloppy 2nd half display, combined with a dominant performance from Benji Marshall, scuppered any hopes of a 3rd successive win. Worryingly, defence was again lacking when it counted most, with the Tigers piling on 24 points in the 2nd half. We continue to harp on about it, but defence wins premierships, not razzle-dazzle jungle ball.
The Storm suffered their first lost of the season 3 weeks ago but bounced back well after the bye to demolish the Broncos in Melbourne. Only a Carney inspired Sharks outfit have halted their charge so far this season, and they’re deserved premiership favourites.
Players to Watch: Manu was back to his error-ridden ways against the Tigers, and it is really starting to wear thin. He continues to make elementary errors, and his poor games have been as frequent as his solid ones. He needs to sort his shit out, sooner rather than later.
The Kondom was again at his penetrating best against the Tigers, though more importantly is showing signs he’s learning and improving with every game. I thought Johnson over-played his hand with a couple of very questionable 4th and 5th tackle options. Sometimes less is more, and he’ll need to pick his moments against a Storm outfit that has the best defence in the competition.
Kevin Locke is the notable absentee, and it’s going to hurt us. Gus got excited about the Fish’s speed, though that was about all that impressed me in his display against the Tigers – his poor positional play on defence was again disappointing. Look to Cronk and Smith to repeatedly target both he and Manu with success. Slater will be keen to insert himself into the line and create indecision amongst our outside men as he did so well in round 8.
Our forwards struggled to gain momentum in the 2nd half against the Tigers, and the forward battle will again be paramount. The Storm have struggled against our propping quartet when they get a roll on and if we’re to get anywhere near them this week, it’ll have to be tight and tough up the middle. Like Johnson, Feleti is prone to over-playing his hand. He needs to get back to basics and start running hard and straight before unleashing his ball-playing brilliance.
I’ll be watching Dane Nielsen with interest this weekend. I’ve been a fan of his for a couple of years now, and he’ll be keen to impress on his last trip to Mt Smart as a Melbourne player.
My prediction: We know what Melbourne are going to produce – clinical, high completion rate, error-free football. We won’t beat Melbourne at their own game, and that means disrupting their flow with quick play-the-balls, second phase play and brutal defence up the middle. The Warriors have the blue print for victory over Melbourne, though I’m not convinced they’re at a point to execute it.
A wise man once said, “we’re not far off” – unfortunately I think we are. As hard as I try, I can’t see us coming away with the 2 points. Storm by a few: 30 - 18