By Guest Writer Stephen Gallagher
GAME OF THE ROUND: ROUND 19 – Melbourne Storm V North Queensland Cowboys – Saturday, AAMI Park 17.30 local time.
LAST WEEK: Melbourne were nothing short of embarrassed as they were thrashed 40-12 at home against a young Canberra Raiders side.
North Queensland had the bye.
THIS WEEK: The Storm will be drilled hard at training after an embarrassment last weekend. They will be getting flogged. Craig Bellamy would have hated last weeks result and will be doing all he can this week to change that. With the Origin series over, and a few losses of late this side will really need to start hitting their straps again which saw them rise to the top early on and yet to be de-throned with a two point lead on the premiership table. A near full side will also boost their ranks as this clash will be a tight one.
Cowboys players will be thankful that the representative season is over without any of their big name players getting seriously hurt. They need to show all their cards in this one to get past a Storm side which will be doing everything they can to reverse the result of last week. Last year the last few rounds of the Cowboys season were poor and let them down in what could have been a good top four finish. The finals are coming up, and what better start to the crunch rounds than to play the benchmark side.
WHAT TO EXPECT: Melbourne will show no signs of last weeks whopping they took. They will be coming back twice as hard. The Cowboys will feel it. Bellyache is not the sort of coach to take things like that lightly which is why they are so successful. I expect to see plenty of attack from this team that will just be purely clinical in the sense that if they lose this one – they are endanger of falling from the top spot. Melbourne will be near perfect.
North Queensland can not just sit back and try beat the Storm by defending a lead. They will have to attack, attack, attack. Melbourne usually have compressed defence so if they spread the ball early to their wingers we could see them taking a bit of control against this tough Storm outfit. To get even close to winning they will have to be at their very best, and away from home that could be tough for the Townsville boys to achieve.
THE BATTLE OF: The five-eighth’s. Gareth Widdop has been outstanding ever since his transition from Toyota Cup to the big show. Learning his trade from some of the world’s best right now is a pretty good thing to have too. He’s been the rock of the Storm when the others have been out for Origin and he will continue to weave his magic in this one.
Johnathan Thurston is the best half in the world right now, and has been for a long time. He will be out to teach the youngster a lesson on how it should be done. With a great team around him, Thurston is merely a dictator – but a bloody good one at that.
KEEP YOUR EYE ON: Cameron Smith – Having him back will to the best thing for this team, he is a champion player.
Ashley Graham – Try scoring machine this season, and has the ability to score from anywhere on the park with his agility and pace out wide.
If Melbourne weren’t thrashed last weekend I would have said this one could go either way – but to lose like they did last week there is no chance of a loss this weekend. Melbourne to win 36-20.
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