What you need to know – Preliminary Final
Melbourne Storm v Brisbane Broncos
Friday 20 September, 7.45pm
Head-to-Head: Storm 28, Broncos 13, Draw 1
Last time we met: Round 17, 2017 – Melbourne 42 def Broncos 12 at AAMI Park
TV: Fox Sports 502
Radio: 2GB & ABC Grandstand
It is hard to think of a side getting a bigger boost before a Preliminary Final than welcoming back their captain. Darius Boyd has missed the opening two weeks of the Finals due to a hamstring injury. He joined the Broncos full session for the first time on Tuesday and looks all but certain to make the trip to AAMI Park. Boyd is their defensive organiser, leader and responsible for a vast majority of what they do with the football. He will no doubt be asking plenty of questions of the Storm defence.
History a mixed bag
The records between these two Clubs can be twisted depending on who you support. From a Storm perspective, winning 12 of their last 14 games against Brisbane gives them cause for confidence. The Broncos though should hold little fear in coming down, having won two of their last three games at AAMI Park. In fact Wayne Bennett’s boys had won their past two games here prior to Storm’s narrow two-point victory back in Round 3. It can make for happy reading either way but in truth it likely means next to nothing once that first ball is kicked on Friday night.
Doubts over Oates
The selection story of the week will be whether or not Corey Oates will line up on the wing for Brisbane. The 22-year-old suffered a horrific head knock in the first half last Friday night and was forced from the field on a stretcher. He completed light duties on Monday and had his workload increased on Tuesday. The Broncos say he has so far passed all the necessary protocols and are confident he will be available to play. If he does, it will set up a mouthwatering matchup with Suliasi Vunivalu on the outside.
Throwing it around
Storm may be making some subtle changes with their attack for this Finals series. They had 11 offloads to two against the Eels in the Qualifying Final, showing a greater willingness to throw the football around which certainly appeared to catch Parramatta off guard. Back in Round 3 when they played the Broncos, Storm had a season-high 17 offloads so we could be seeing more of the same.
Massive crowd expected
AAMI Park is set to be a sea of purple pride on Friday night with all signs pointing to a huge crowd. Ticket sales have been flying early in the week so Melburnians are encouraged to get in quick to not miss out. There are not many places better to be than a packed out AAMI Park so it is time to Bring The Thunder!