Storm v Broncos preview

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Melbourne Storm v Brisbane Broncos Friday 8:05pm at AAMI Park

Broncos look to cause Good Friday miracle against Storm

The Storm and the Broncos have both started the year with 1 win and 2 losses, with Brisbane actually sitting above Melbourne on the NRL ladder courtesy of a 2-point superiority in for and against.
While the teams may be close on the table, they are worlds apart in expectation, regarding both the outcome of Friday night's game as well as premiership aspirations later this year. 

Last week, the Storm looked to have done enough to cause a repeat of the 2020 Grand Final result against the Penrith Panthers, having led for pretty much the whole match, before allowing Kurt Capewell to burst through and score the matchwinner. It means that they are facing the prospect of losing 3 of their first 4 matches, something not experienced by the Storm since 2008. 

In stark contrast to the Storm game, which many considered to be an early contender for game of the year, the Broncos outlasted fellow battlers the Bulldogs to eventually run away with a 24-0 victory. In an error riddled first half, the Broncos led 2-0 at the break, before the deadlock was finally broken by Jamayne Isaako in the 58th minute. 

The unfortunate resurgence on COVID-19 in Brisbane has overshadowed this match, with relocation from Melbourne still a slim possibility at the time of writing. It has to be said the Broncos would gain whatever advantage came from such a move, boasting a dismal recent record 2 wins and 8 losses at Aami Park since 2011. 

In team news, the Storm will be bolstered by the return of star fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen. His inclusion forces Nicholas Hynes out of the 17, while Christian Welch will line up for his 100th NRL appearance. 

For the Broncos, they are unchanged in the backline and halves, however, receive a huge boost up front with the return of Payne Haas, who missed the first 3 games of the year with suspension. His return means Tom Flegler will move back to the bench, while Matt Lodge has also been named to return from injury and has forced Pangai Junior to the interchange. Ethan Bullemor and Tom Dearden have been left out of the 17 as a result.

Last meeting: Round 11 2020 - Broncos 8 Storm 46

Who to watch: It's been intriguing watching Brandon Smith play in his preferred position of hooker throughout the opening rounds this year with Harry Grant sidelined with an injury. Smith has been the subject of much speculation regarding his contract and has made it no secret he would like to be the starting hooker for a team. He started off well against the Rabbitohs, however didn't have his best game against the Eels in Round 2. He rebounded well last week, making a line break, 4 tackle breaks and scoring a try of his own as well as making 34 tackles (3 missed). Smith will also want to work towards playing a full 80 minutes at hooker, something he is yet to achieve in 2021. 

Broncos' fullback Jamayne Isaako reminded the Rugby League world what he's capable of last week, making 18 runs for 202 metres as well as 2-line breaks, 4 tackle breaks, a line break assist, try assist while also scoring a try of his own. Isaako, much like the rest of the Broncos team, was subject to much instability last year, failing to nail down the position of fullback and at times finding himself out of the starting side. He will be keen to further solidify his place as the Broncos starting fullback and can do so with another strong performance against Melbourne on Friday night.

The favourite: The Storm are favoured by a whopping total of 20 points over the Broncos for the one.

My tip: While it was good to see the Broncos finally play some respectable footy after clicking into gear late last week, the Storm are about 4 or 5 steps up from the Bulldogs and will do the job comfortably on Good Friday. Melbourne by 22.

1. Ryan Papenhuyzen 2. George Jennings 3. Reimis Smith 4. Justin Olam 5. Josh Addo-Carr 6. Cameron Munster 7. Jahrome Hughes 8. Jesse Bromwich 9. Brandon Smith 10. Christian Welch 11. Tom Eisenhuth 12. Kenneath Bromwich 15. Tui Kamikamica 13. Nelson Asofa-Solomona 16. Chris Lewis 19. Nicholas Hynes 20. Trent Loiero

1. Jamayne Isaako 2. Xavier Coates 3. Herbie Farnworth 4. Tesi Niu 5. David Mead 6. Anthony Milford 18. Tom Dearden 8. Matthew Lodge 9. Jake Turpin 10. Payne Haas 11. Alex Glenn 12. Jordan Riki 13. Patrick Carrigan 7. Brodie Croft 15. Thomas Flegler 16. Tevita Pangai Junior 17. Ben Te'o

Referees: Gerard Sutton; Sideline Officials: Matt Noyen, Kasey Badger; Video Referees: Steve Chiddy;

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