And so, as the prophecy foretold, it has come to this: sudden death, instant death, extremely painful and bloody death, if you will, it’s preliminary finals time of this our 2021 NRL Premiership.
The Anzac clash between the Warriors and the Storm has generally had some great contests.
With the Storm unbeaten since 2014 in the annual fixture, it would be easy to assume they will continue the streak on Sunday night. Adding to this is the massive injury toll the Warriors are facing – exasperated by the game-eve withdrawals of Tohu Harris and David Fusitu’a. This is best shown with Jack Murchie playing in the unfamiliar centre role.
Obviously, the Storm are down Ryan Papenhuyzen who hasn’t had a bad start to the season, but apart from that they are a very good team, and the tandem hooker/lock combo of Brandon Smith and Harry Grant is going to keep Wayde Egan and Jazz Tevaga very busy.
Still, when there are injuries new players get presented with opportunities. Rocco Berry is the latest Warrior to debut, and from all accounts is a very good player, light on his feet and strong on attack. It will be quite the test debuting against the Storm, and it will a real challenge if he is playing opposite Josh Addo-Carr. The Warriors’ biggest issue this season apart from injuries has been a lack of pace and hopefully Berry can improve that aspect of the Warriors.
Based on results so far this season, from an analytics perspective the Warriors need Roger Tuivasa-Sheck to run for 250+ meters to win, and Ken Maumalo to also carry for at least 200 meters. A lot will be expected of Kodi Nikorima establishing himself as the senior half in the Warriors now, and he has to run the ball all game to create opportunities.
Some quirky points to note as well are that George Jennings comes up against the club that helped him really restart his NRL career, and Reims Smith and Marcelo Montoya are obviously ex-Bulldogs players, both enjoying revitalised careers in better systems than the previous one they shared.
The Warriors have been competitive in most games this season with their worst performance against the Roosters, and the Storm present an even harder test in Melbourne. The Storm have had an interesting start to the season, running in 92 points against the Bulldogs and the Broncos but since Round 1 against the Rabbitohs (aside from the two aforementioned teams) have only got to 20 points against the Roosters last week.
The Warriors have only gone past 20 points once this season, against an undermanned Raiders squad in the famous comeback of Round 3.
Based on this, unless the Warriors can get the Storm into a low-scoring arm wrestle and take the game deep into the second half, expect a similar scoreline from the Warriors and Roosters game.