The Storm did well to get out of jail last week against the Warriors but it doesn't change the fact they didn't bounce back anywhere near as strongly as most pundits expected after the previous week's extra time loss to the Roosters.
Coach Craig Bellamy didn't try to pretend his team played well, but it probably falls under the category of good teams find a way to win even when they're off their game.
The Storm rarely give us three so-so performances on the trot so we can probably expect them to show up with the A-game against their 2016 grand final rivals.
The Sharks are coming off last week's road loss to a desperate Broncos and will enjoy being back on home turf for such a big game.
Match: Sharks v Storm
Round 8 -
Venue: PointsBet Stadium, Sydney
Sharks: Josh Dugan has overcome the hamstring issue which kept him out last week and comes into the starting team at fullback in jersey No.21 with Will Kennedy dropping out. Aaron Gray (No.20) was called up on Thursday for his first game of the season on the wing to replace Sosaia Feki, who has a knee injury. Sione Katoa returns on the wing after missing the last two games and last week’s debutant Ronaldo Mulitalo has been omitted. Kyle Flanagan comes in at five-eighth to replace Shaun Johnson (hamstring). Briton Nikora returns from suspension in the back row.
Storm: Interchange hooker Brandon Smith will be rested this week with a calf strain and Patrick Kaufusi comes onto the bench in his place. In a late switch an hour before kick-off Nelson Asofa-Solomona was relegated to the bench and Christian Welch promoted to the starting side. Billy Walters was omitted 24 hours before kick-off while Joe Stimson and Curtis Scott dropped off an hour before game time.
Fullback for Sharks is number 21 Josh DuganFullback for Storm is number 1 Jahrome Hughes
Winger for Sharks is number 5 Sione KatoaWinger for Storm is number 2 Suliasi Vunivalu
Centre for Sharks is number 3 Bronson XerriCentre for Storm is number 3 Will Chambers
Centre for Sharks is number 4 Josh MorrisCentre for Storm is number 4 Marion Seve
Winger for Sharks is number 20 Aaron GrayWinger for Storm is number 5 Josh Addo-Carr
Five-Eighth for Sharks is number 6 Kyle FlanaganFive-Eighth for Storm is number 6 Cameron Munster
Halfback for Sharks is number 7 Chad TownsendHalfback for Storm is number 7 Brodie Croft
Prop for Sharks is number 8 Andrew FifitaProp for Storm is number 8 Jesse Bromwich
Hooker for Sharks is number 9 Jayden BraileyHooker for Storm is number 9 Cameron Smith
Prop for Sharks is number 10 Matt PriorProp for Storm is number 15 Christian Welch
2nd Row for Sharks is number 11 Briton Nikora2nd Row for Storm is number 11 Felise Kaufusi
2nd Row for Sharks is number 12 Kurt Capewell2nd Row for Storm is number 12 Kenneath Bromwich
Lock for Sharks is number 13 Paul GallenLock for Storm is number 13 Dale Finucane
Interchange for Sharks is number 14 Blayke BraileyInterchange for Storm is number 10 Nelson Asofa-Solomona
Interchange for Sharks is number 15 Jayson BukuyaInterchange for Storm is number 16 Tui Kamikamica
Interchange for Sharks is number 16 Jack WilliamsInterchange for Storm is number 17 Ryan Papenhuyzen
Interchange for Sharks is number 17 Braden Hamlin-UeleInterchange for Storm is number 19 Patrick Kaufusi
With injuries galore, Chad Townsend is going to have to shoulder a heavy load in terms of direction and leadership. He has a tough head to head battle on his hands against Brodie Croft, who will be on a high after kicking his team to victory over the Warriors last week.
For the Sharks to win
Hang onto the ball. The possession stats in their loss to Brisbane were poor. They had just 42 per cent possession, and a completion rate of just 65 per cent (22 of 34 sets). If those numbers are repeated against the Storm, a fifth loss from eight matches will almost certainly follow.
For the Storm to win
Keep following the lead of Cameron Smith. It's a plan that worked for the last 15 years and there's no need to go looking for a Plan B anytime so long as Smith is still playing. When crunch periods arrive in matches, Smith assumes control and good things usually follow for the men in purple. He's a player of rare ability.
Brett Kimmorley says
What Melbourne continue to do is they don’t beat themselves. They win close games even when not attacking great. I think I saw more passes hit the ground last week than I sometimes see in a whole season. Unfortunately for Cronulla, their injury dramas are going from bad to worse. Their young players will get an opportunity, it is about digging in and showing the character of the club. Storm by 4
Melbourne's 6-1 start to the year should be no surprise. Since 2010, Craig Bellamy's teams are 54-16 over the over seven rounds of the season. In two of those years (2012 and 2013) they were 7-0. Their worst starts in the last decade (2018 and 2014) still had them sitting at 4-3 after seven rounds.
And another thing ...
Growing pains are part of any young players rise through the ranks and Bronson Xerri is no different. He's already shown that he has all the physical attributes to be a great attacking player. Now he is learning the hard way what not to do. Every player goes through this, the smart ones learn from that. All signs point towards Xerri being a quick learner.