Melbourne Storm v North Queensland Cowboys
Friday 4 August, 7.50pm
Head-to-Head: Storm 24, Cowboys 10
Last time we met: Round 15, 2017 – Melbourne 23 def North Queensland 22 at AAMI Park
TV: Channel GEM, Fox Sports 502
Radio: 2GB & ABC Grandstand
This week the Storm coaching staff has the unenviable task of finding a way to replace one of the most dynamic players in the NRL. Cameron Munster has not made the trip to Townsville after suffering a high ankle sprain during Sunday’s win over Manly. Craig Bellamy has sounded out Jahrome Hughes and Ryley Jacks as the duo likely to battle it out for the vacant five-eighth position. It is a role that comes naturally to Jacks, having played the first seven games of the season there and has spent majority of his time in reserve grade at five-eighth. Hughes is in form though, having performed strongly at fullback in Slater’s absence against Manly. He has also spent time playing in the No.6 for the Sunshine Coast Falcons at various stages of the year. Thursday’s Captain’s Run is what Craig Bellamy will use as the basis upon which to make his final decision.
No JT but still flying
The Cowboys may have lost last week against the Roosters but they led for much of that game, even by as much as 10 points at one stage. It was their first defeat in the four games since Johnathan Thurston was ruled out for the season with a shoulder injury. Even without their chief playmaker, scoring points has not been a problem for the Cowboys as recent scores of 31 and 23 have shown. Michael Morgan has moved into the No.7 while 21-year-old Te Maire Martin appears to be holding his own at five-eighth. It is a testament to their depth and an interesting sub plot as to what they will throw at the competition’s best defence.
Away record strong
This Storm side is on the cusp of achieving something no other team has in the Club’s history. Melbourne have never won 10 away games in a single season but with a current away record of 9-1, that milestone is now within reach. Each of those nine wins have come at an average margin of nearly 10 points per game. The chance is there to make history on Friday night, now it is up to this side to take it.
Jason Taumalolo had an incredible 300 metres the last time he lined up against Storm back in Round 15. He also had a team-high 37 tackles that night which shows his work rate. The powerful Kiwi has gained more metres than any other player in the NRL this season at an average of 205m per game. The one stat that shows his importance is the fact he has run for nearly 1,000 metres more than any of his teammates in 2017. Taumalolo represents the toughest of tests for this Storm pack and one they will no doubt he preparing for.