WIZ: Storm to win it comfortably through the rucks
Melbourne Storm player Cooper Cronk. AAP Image/Julian Smith
In what should be a fantastic game of football, I have to say, all the signs are pointing towards a Melbourne Storm win for me. They’ve got the players, the coach, and the forward pack to do the job.
Their turn around in the latter half of this season from the rut they were in is a testament to the shrewd coaching and player management of Craig Bellamy. Somehow he resurrected a team that looked like it was going off the rails and has them peaking at precisely the right time.
Look at way they demolished Souths.
It was clinical. And they probably should have beaten Manly by an even wider margin, such was their dominance in that game.
On the other hand, Souths were right in their match against the Bulldogs, and if Reynolds had stayed on the field, they may well have gotten up.
The Rabbitohs showed that you can nullify the power and size of the Bulldogs forwards by going straight through the middle of the ruck, exploiting tired defenders with short inside balls.
Think about the likes of SLater and Cronk running up the middle of the ground on the back of good yardage from Norrie and co. They’ll isolate guys like Kasiano and Eastwood, who are great players but can get a little lazy sometimes in defence.
In the Souths game, Isaac Luke found them out badly around the ruck area. Cameron Smith will do the same. He simply commands respect around the middle of the park.
That said, there will be some big personal showdowns: Slater vs Barba; Morris vs Chambers; Kasiano against Norrie, who, miraculously, was going to play for Wagga Wagga in park football a few years ago before Bellamy offered him a lifeline.
If the Bulldogs can get Pritchard and Eastwood firing, they’ll be a threat. But they will need to go to a whole new level.
I don’t think they have it in them and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Storm get up in the end comfortably by 12 or more points.
Gary 'Wiz' Freeman is one of the great halfbacks in New Zealand rugby league history. Now an outspoken and popular media personality, he joined The Roar in 2012 as an expert rugby league columnist, and continues in 2013.