Both sides face the lofty prospect of another Grand Final appearance in season 2017. A seventh finals series in a row is on the cards for the North Queensland Cowboys. No longer seen as the other mob, their fierce competitiveness has been keeping all opposition on their toes despite losing Johnathan Thurston and Matthew Scott to injury.
Melbourne Storm are on course for their 17th Finals series from 20 attempts. In the AFL proud state of Victoria they have cultivated a winning culture that is beyond astonishing. With the big three on board, Jesse Bromwich getting back to his best and Cameron Munster turning into a sensation, the Storm as premiers may be on the horizon shortly.
Cooper Cronk has been in the headlines recently over where his future lies but his present is set on bagging yet another Melbourne Premiership. He has not hit the heights of years gone by but he is still a force to be reckoned and his astute kicking game is one of the best the NRL has ever witnessed. His opposite number, Michael Morgan, has outshone Cronk marginally this season. Buoyed by some magic Origin plays and big game performances for the Cowboys, this a match up that will have a huge outcome on the result.
Melbourne go from one end of the Australian map to the other for this welterweight clash that has fans salivating. Both sides are now near fully recovered from State of Origin duties and raring to go with only Munster missing.
2017 – Rd 15 Melbourne Storm 23 def. North Queensland Cowboys 22 at AAMI Park
2016 – QF Melbourne Storm 16 def. North Queensland Cowboys 10 at AAMI Park
2016 – Rd 21 Melbourne Storm 16 def. North Queensland Cowboys 8 at 1300SMILES Stadium
2016 – Rd 10 Melbourne Storm 15 def. North Queensland Cowboys 14 at Suncorp Stadium
2015 – PF North Queensland Cowboys 32 def. Melbourne Storm 12 at AAMI Park
Melbourne have claimed the bragging rights over the Cowboys in recent times with four victories from the last five clashes.
The Storm have defeated the Cowboys in their last two Queensland encounters despite the change in temperature and lengthy plane trip.
The Cowboys could take confidence out of playing against three of the greatest players of this generation and only losing narrowly each time. Their abolition of the Storm in 2015 on the way to their maiden Grand Final provides a blueprint for this clash if they can get up in Melbourne’s face and use the Cowboys speed on the edges to burn them as the game wears on.
|Lachlan Coote||1||1||Billy Slater|
|Kyle Feldt||2||2||Suliasi Vunivalu|
|Justin O’Neill||3||3||Will Chambers|
|Kane Linnett||4||4||Curtis Scott|
|Antonio Winterstein||21||5||Josh Addo-Carr|
|Te Maire Martin||6||6||Ryley Jacks|
|Michael Morgan||7||7||Cooper Cronk|
|John Asiata||8||8||Jesse Bromwich|
|Jake Granville||9||9||Cameron Smith|
|Scott Bolton||10||10||Tim Glasby|
|Gavin Cooper||11||11||Felise Kaufusi|
|Ethan Lowe||12||12||Joe Stimson|
|Jason Taumalolo||13||13||Dale Funicane|
|Ben Hampton||14||14||Nelson Asofa-Solomona|
|Coen Hess||15||15||Kenneath Bromwich|
|Shaun Fensom||16||16||Jordan Mclean|
|Corey Jensen||17||17||Slade Griffin|
|Braden uele||18||18||Nate Myles|
|Kalyn Ponga||19||20||Jahrome Hughes|
|Sam Hoare||20||21||Brodie Croft|
|Javid Bowen||21||22||Robbie Rochow|
The Facts That Matter
North Queensland Cowboys
The Cowboys four-game winning streak was ended last week against the Roosters and they now face 1st, 9th, 3rd, 15th and 4th to close out the season.
Paul Green stated that the players took the Roosters clash as another regular round fixture and subsequently weren’t prepared for the Bondi boys semi-final intensity in the second half. Green says that attitude has vanquished as the Cowboys look to send a message to the rest of the competition.
The return of Shaun Fensom, who has been a fair shout for the Cowboys’ best forward over the past month, is a big boost. His work rate and steely defence will help to tighten up the Cowboys defensive resolve when the battle heats and the players tire.
Billy Slater makes his return from a head knock after missing last week’s clash against the Manly Sea Eagles, replacing the injured Cameron Munster. Slater’s effervescent nature and playmaking abilities add so much spark and a further dimension to a dynamic Storm attack.
Melbourne will be confident they can close out the Minor Premiership with three of their remaining five fixtures at home, despite two of those coming against top five opposition.
Craig Bellamy has given the squad a light week at training so that the players will be fresh for this clash in the tropics of North Queensland. That extra energy and exuberance should see them stamp their authority on this one, even in the heat.
The Cowboys will need to lift immensely without Thurston and Scott while a finals attitude ought to be brought into this game. If North Queensland can rattle the Storm early and press on in the second half then they may have enough to hold on, being one of the fittest rosters in the NRL. In saying that, the Storm are also tradesmen and I feel as if they are priming for a big finish to the season. Despite being at home, the Cowboys won’t have enough to overturn Melbourne and their relentless attack.
Prediction – Melbourne by 7.
Who do you think will win this clash? Let us know in the comments and poll below.
Want to share your opinion? Why not Write For Us?