It’s a Thursday Night clash of enormous proportions, with the ladder-leading Dragons taking on the reigning premiers, Melbourne Storm. NRL Tips expert Steve Green weighs in.
This is yet another example of the disruptive impact that Origin has on the NRL season. I am not sure what the solution is, but a game like this one should be an absolute blockbuster.
However, on the eve of Origin, these two teams will have combined 11 players missing due to Origin duty! The Storm have 6, whereas the Dragons have 5.
I think the impact on the Storm will be far greater for the following reasons:
- The Storm are already missing some key forwards through injury. Jesse Bromwich, Sam Kasiano and Dale Finucane are currently injured, so when you throw in the loss of Glasby and Kaufusi to Origin, the Storm are missing an entire starting forward pack here (besides their dummy half of course), and
- Out wide, Munster and Slater are two of their best players and create most of the attacking chances for the Storm. Addo-Carr is their leading try scorer and Chambers is a defensive rock. So out wide they are also significantly weaker.
While the Dragons are also missing four key forwards and their half back, I think they are better placed to cover the loss. Firstly, although they are missing a big chunk of their starting forward pack, they still have quality in the form of Graham, Ah Mau, Latimore and McInnes to rely on.
As for the Dragons players stepping up to first grade, I really like what I have seen from Host, and although he is prone to the odd brain snap (like his older brother), L Leilua is a quality player that will relish the opportunity to start in the first grade.
Sele would be on the bench in any other team in the competition and I am actually amazed he has played so little first grade in 2018.
But it is the Dragons backline that looks likely to be the difference here. With the likes of Widdop, Aitken, Lafai, Macdonald. Mann and Dufty, the Dragons still have nearly their entire backline intact.
On top of this, they have Darren Nichols playing at 7. He is a very experienced half and would have played a lot more NRL if he hadn’t been stuck behind quality halves at other clubs throughout his career.
While Widdop will be the dominant half, Nicholls will provide a good foil and take some pressure off the star Englishman. Although the Dragons were flat against the Eels last week, I think a lot of that was due to the number of players they had backing up from Origin and international matches.
This week they have had a full week to recover and train together, so expect them to start with more energy. Plus I think the Eels started that game with some great footy and fast line speed, so it was actually a really gutsy win by the Dragons.
The Storm are coming off a gutsy win of their own, but their attack continues to look clunky. The Storm do have the home ground advantage and with Smith at the helm, they will be hard to beat. I think the Dragons and Storm will play out a thriller here.