Different ball game
It is no secret that Saturday’s game will be entirely different from the last time these two teams met at AAMI Park back. Melbourne will have seven changes from the 13 that started on the field in that Round 18 loss to the Eels. Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk, Billy Slater, Tim Glasby, Cameron Munster and Will Chambers were all away on Origin duty that night. Curtis Scott is the other inclusion in place of the injured Cheyse Blair on the left edge. Those are some handy additions this time around, meaning Melbourne will have significantly more experience and attacking weapons to throw at the Parramatta defence.
War of words
The former apprentice started meets the Melbourne master. Both coaches traded verbal swipes in their respective post-game press conferences last week. Arthur made a subtle suggestion about Storm’s influence around the ruck, an accusation that gets dug up around this time every single year. As Craig Bellamy put it, “it’s the same song, just a different singer”. Arthur spent four years at Melbourne, getting his start as a development coach in 2007 before progressing to an assistant under Bellamy in 2010. The press conference banter will not have any influence on the outcome, however it has made his an interesting subplot leading into the Qualifying Final.
Semi Radradra has hit form at the business end of the season, scoring seven tries in his last two games including a four-try haul against the Broncos in Round 25. The powerful winger ranks numbers one at Parramatta for line breaks, tackle busts and run metres – averaging 149 metres per game. Radradra was dominant in that Round 18 game against Storm, coming up with three line breaks from his first three runs. He will line up opposite Suliasi Vunivalu, so get the popcorn ready because it will be an all-Fijian showdown out on the wing.
Eels out of the blocks
Parramatta have won nine out of their last 10 games and the secret to their success has been their starts. In seven of those wins, the blue and gold have scored first inside the opening 11 minutes. They had the first three on the board the last time out against Melbourne, a 16-point buffer that ultimately proved the difference. Melbourne will be well aware that they need to start well, doing so will go a long way to winning the game.
Should Storm contain the Eels early, they can rely on their fitness to take over at the end. Melbourne have scored tries during the 77th minute or later in their last seven consecutive games. Josh Addo-Carr has been the go to man, doing it on three occasions as his lightning quick pace seems to be too slick for the tired legs of opposing defenders. If the game is close, Storm fans can be confident that their side has form in producing the goods at the end when it matters most.