The Storm’s biggest problem when they cheated the salary cap was they spent all their money on top ups for players and nothing was put to the little things needed to cheat a salary cap successfully: brown bags, a paper shredder and a boatshed for the players’ yachts.
Since coming clean the Storm have won a premiership and up until three weeks ago had won 15 straight games. But in the last three weeks they’ve managed one competition point, or one less over that same period than the Warriors who had 62 put on them last week versus the Panthers.
Meanwhile the Roosters have won five straight, including a 24-point win against a Panthers team that beat the Storm and a Manly team that held the Storm to a draw down south.
The Roosters are crowing, while clouds are gathering over the Storm.
How about those shithouse puns, huh?
Team for Round 11
Anthony Minichiello (C) ,Daniel Tupou, Michael Jennings, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, James Maloney, Mitchell Pearce, Luke O’Donnell, Jake Friend, Martin Kennedy, Mitchell Aubusson, Sonny Bill Williams, Boyd Cordner. Interchange: (From) Daniel Mortimer, Frank-Paul Nu’uausala, Aidan Guerra, Lama Tasi, Dylan Napa.
The Roosters name an unchanged line-up from that which weathered hideous refereeing and teeming rain to win 12-8 against the Cowboys on Saturday, with Dylan Napa as always expected to fall off the interchange bench.
The Roosters have now won five straight matches and conceded an average of just a try per match in that run. They remain the league’s premier defensive squad but fall to equal second in attack following just 28 points in their past two matches. The Storm are fourth in attack just nine points behind, and fourth in points against.
The Roosters struggled without the typical go-forward provided by Sam Moa and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves last week, but compensated with a shitload more aggression. Luke O’Donnell in particular took it right to James Tamou, and Marty Kennedy — who struggled to make metres — was aggressive in defence.
But they could use more Tasi.
Big Lama played just 19 minutes against the Cowboys but was effective in defence and with his go forward in his first NRL game of the year. Plus, if he plays more against the Storm we might have the opportunity to see something like this again:
How they’ll play
They need to attack the centres, who simply aren’t the class of centre the Storm have had in years past — esepcially defensively. Justin O’Neill in particular has struggled to contain his opposite man in recent weeks, including Blake Ferguson who put on a show two weeks ago with two tries in the Storm’s first loss.
Shaun Kenny-Dowall is due for a huge attacking game and will line up against O’Neill, but don’t be surprised if Sonny Bill continues to cut him out for the Sheck who comes up against Mahe Fonua.
The Roosters will have option after option out on that flank. MP7 could cut out SBW for SKD, SBW could cut out SKD for RTS, or Mini could take advantage of an MP7 decoy pocket pass as he did against the Cowboys.
The Roosters will not score in the middle of the field.
The Storm generally struggle with awkward teams which play ad lib footy and let go of the structure that typically wins games. Think how the Storm struggle traditionally with teams like the Warriors and Raiders — two huge teams which can offload at will and use big backs to their advantage.
The Roosters don’t have the advantage of a huge pack with their two starting props out, but they do have Sonny Bill who could get an arm free from a straight jacket in quicksand, plus a back row which can break the line with the best of them.
Team for Round 11
Billy Slater, Sisa Waqa, Maurice Blair, Justin O’Neill, Mahe Fonua, Gareth Widdop, Cooper Cronk, Jesse Bromwich, Cameron Smith (C), Bryan Norrie, Kevin Proctor, Ryan Hoffman, Ryan Hinchcliffe. Interchange: (From) Tohu Harris, Jason Ryles, Junior Moors, Lagi Setu, Slade Griffin.
Ryan Hinchcliffe returned last week against Manly forcing impressive rookie Tohu Harris to the bench. Slade Griffin, sick name and all, is expected to drop off. Former Roosters Sisa Waqa and Jason Ryles return to Allianz again, with Waqa turning into a half-decent winger after the Roosters let him go.
The Storm have come away with just a point in their past three matches following a 15-game winning streak. Many Roosters fans were either concerned or excited about the prospect of Melbourne potentially trying to match the Roosters’ record of 19 straight wins in this game, but the Storm have seriously struggled recently.
Even before their first loss against the Raiders, the Storm looked a tired outfit, having struggled to put away the Warriors as well but have been the only team to beat the Rabbitohs this year and rarely fail to turn up for the big matches.
How they’ll play
Billy Slater is always a danger and those scrum base plays with him, Cronk and Smith are gorgeous to watch. But Billy has been a bit out of form recently and looks a little tired, while the Roosters are generally weaker down the right flanks.
Speaking of out of form, Cooper Cronk’s kicking game has gone missing in the past two games. His normally pinpoint chips to his outside men have been either short of the mark or a touch too far, with the Storm struggling in attack as a result. However, he was noticeably pissed off following the Sea Eagles clash on Monday, and will no doubt have practiced on improving it all week.
He’s the most competitive, OCD player in the game, so those kicks are likely to be spot on this week in a big clash. Four of the five tries scored against the Roosters in their five-match winning streak have come on the right side of the posts, all from kicks. Expect plenty of testing kicks from Cronk to The Sheck and Skiddzy, with O’Neill the major target.
It’s funny, but had the Storm lost against the Sea Eagles I would have been more concerned. Seeing the Storm lose four games would have been hard to imagine, and they would have been more fired up to avoid a losing streak like that against the Roosters — especially before Origin.
Taking a point against a top four team doesn’t sound like much but it released some of the pressure they were under. And that game was the most physical game of the year, and was extended an extra 10 minutes.
They really struggled to put away a team that was physically spent towards the back end of that match on Monday, and they face a quick turnaround against the best defensive squad in the league this Saturday.
Roosters by 14. There, I said it.
Both of these teams have too much pride in their defence to allow for a blowout, but the Roosters have 14 more points in them. Jenko and BBQ on the left, the acronym attack on the right and Tasi near the line. Gold.
Mitchell Pearce will complete the hat trick of 26 Rounds Man of the Match performances. And I bet he’s stoked with the honour.