Finals Preview: Storm v Cowboys

Melbourne Storm v North Queensland Cowboys
Saturday September 10, 7.55pm
AAMI Park

The minor premiers take on the reigning premiers with hosting the right a home preliminary final up for grabs.
The game will feature the two best defensive teams in the competition as well as the NRL’s two premiere forward packs.
Storm won both games against the Cowboys during the home and away season, including one of the games of the year when a Cameron Smith field goal was all that separated the two sides back in Round 10.
North Queensland make the trip south having won their past three games. It is a timely return to form for Paul Green’s men who had lost four of five games during back end of the Origin period.
Storm are unchanged with almost a full playing squad to choose from while the Cowboys received a significant boost with co-captain Matt Scott returning to the line up having recovered from a broken thumb.

Make #MelbourneProud this Saturday night. Be at AAMI Park for the Qualifying Final!

Key Matchups:

Cooper Cronk v Johnathan Thurston
It is no surprise that these two playmaking geniuses finished the season ranked equal first in the NRL for try assists with 23 apiece. Thurston also had 24 line break assists while Cronk scored 11 tries – the second-highest season tally of his career. Surprisingly, neither player had an assist in their only head-to-head meeting back in Round 10. Halfback match ups do not get any better than this and given what is at stake both men look set to turn it on.

Dale Finucane v Jason Taumalolo
These two big men have been difference makers in their respective forwards packs having played every game this season. Finucane ranks behind only his skipper for most tackles at Storm while Taumalolo has run for 901 metres and made 21 tackle busts more than any other teammate in 2016. Finucane was brilliant going up against Paul Gallen last week and facing another tough test this Saturday night, he certainly will not be taking a backwards step.
 

History: Played 32: Storm 22, Cowboys 10. Melbourne won both meetings this year by a combined margin of nine points.
 

What we’ve said:

“Our first sets, if it is in attack or off the kick off… I think that is what we lacked in the last couple of weeks, we brought it back against the Sharks and hopefully we can bring it this weekend” – Cameron Munster

“Last week it was kind of like finals because it was a packed stadium… hopefully all the Melburnians can come down to the game and help us try and get over the line” – Kevin Proctor

“They are big men so stopping their momentum will go a long way to negating their outside backs. I think if we can do a good job in the middle that will take that go-forward away for them” – Dale Finucane

“They were the premiers last year and we know they are going to come down here with a game plan to get stuck into us. We’ve got to get ready for it, embrace it and enjoy it” – Will Chambers
 

What they’ve said:

"They're the best defensive team in the competition and are back to keeping teams under pressure" – Paul Green 

"Yeah [the body is] pretty good. The physios have been working overtime, but the body is in really good shape" – Johnathan Thurston

"They are the benchmarks in the NRL and playing them down in Melbourne is a hard enough task as it is for any team. The intensity will be crazy" – Jason Taumalolo
 

Match Officials: Referee - Ben Cummins; Assistant - Grant Atkins; Touch Judges - Brett Suttor & Chris Butler; Review Officials - Luke Patten & Steve Chiddy; Senior Review Official - Ashley Klein.
 

Broadcast: TV – Channel Nine & Fox Sports 1 LIVE, Radio – ABC Grandstand, 2GB & Triple M, Online – NRL Digital Pass.
 

Squads:

Melbourne Storm

North Queensland

1. Cameron Munster

1. Lachlan Coote

2. Suliasi Vunivalu

2. Kyle Feldt

3. William Chambers

3. Justin O’Neill

4. Cheyse Blair

4. Kane Linnett

5. Marika Koroibete

5. Antonio Winterstein

6. Blake Green

6. Michael Morgan

7. Cooper Cronk

7. Johnathan Thurston (c)

8. Jesse Bromwich

8. Matt Scott (c)

9. Cameron Smith (c)

9. Jake Granville

10. Tim Glasby

10. James Tamou

11. Kevin Proctor

11. Gavin Cooper

12. Tohu Harris

12. Ethan Lowe

13. Dale Finucane

13. Jason Taumalolo

 

 

Interchange

Interchange

14. Kenny Bromwich

14. Rory Kostjasyn

15. Christian Welch

15. Coen Hess

16. Jordan McLean

16. Scott Bolton

17. Ben Hampton

17. Ben Hannant

 

 

Coach: Craig Bellamy

Coach: Paul Green