Melbourne Storm v Cronulla Sharks
Sunday, April 9, 4pm
TV: Fox League (Ch. 502) from 4pm
Head-to-Head: Storm 21, Sharks 11
Last time we met: 2016 Grand Final; Storm 12 def by Cronulla 14 at ANZ Stadium
Winds of change, for one team
Cronulla will make the trip to Melbourne with only two players missing from last year’s Grand Final side, Ben Barba and retired hooker Michael Ennis. In contrast Storm have named 10 players in their 21-man squad that did not feature in the decider. It is an interesting contrast heading into Sunday’s clash. Given the change that has swept through this Storm squad since last October you can likely eliminate any emotional baggage heading into this one.
Valentine the fullback
Last week Valentine Holmes was named at fullback for the first time since Round 8, 2015. His showing against the Knights should certainly convince coach Shane Flanagan to keep him there. Holmes was best afield with 210 metres, two line breaks, a try assist and a thrilling 85-metre try. That adjustment to the Sharks line-up will have Craig Bellamy and his assistants pondering a counter-attack on Sunday.
Home record building
Are we witnessing a return of The Graveyard? Storm have won 10 of their last 11 games at AAMI Park. Craig Bellamy’s men are making this ground a purple fortress once again. Given Sunday’s game is kids come FREE, school holidays and a grand Final rematch, there is set to be a massive sea of purple pride in the stands. This will add to an electric atmosphere and help to keep that winning home feeling going.
Sharks AAMI Park hoodoo
While Storm’s record at AAMI Park, this place is not high on the Sharks favourite destinations. In fact Cronulla have never won at AAMI Park from seven visits. During that time Melbourne have enjoyed an average winning margin of 20 points against the men from the Shire. The last time the Sharks tasted victory in Melbourne was next door at Olympic Park, back in Round 2, 2008.