Preview: Melbourne v Warriors
Melbourne Storm return to AAMI Park to play New Zealand Warriors in what has become a traditional ANZAC Day game.by NRL
Melbourne Storm return to AAMI Park to play New Zealand Warriors in what has become a traditional ANZAC Day game. The trans-tasman rivalry is played with passion and pride on what is a special day for both Australia and New Zealand.
Of important significance is both teams will play for the Michael Moore Trophy. Moore was the club's football manager and passed away in a tragic accident when Melbourne Storm played in Auckland 12 years ago.
This game traditionally attracts large crowds and this will be no exception. Melbourne Storm will be looking to consolidate their strong start to the season and register an eighth consecutive win, which will be the club's best start to the season since their inception.
Both teams will also have players backing up from the Test match played between Australia and New Zealand with Billy Slater, Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Jesse Bromwich all involved in this game from Melbourne Storm. Ryan Hinchcliffe and Ryan Hoffman also played in the City v Country match and will also be backing up from representative games.
Ins and outs:
Sides are yet to be announced and Craig Bellamy will want to assess the fitness of the representative players before naming his final squad.
This game traditionally is an open but close affair with both forward packs looking to dominate territory in the middle of the park in the early stages.
Cooper Cronk will be looking to continue his strong kicking game and will look to push the Warriors back defensively. His kicks deep into the corners of the field to allow Melbourne Storm to force errors from the Warriors as they defend their line.
Matt Duffie and Will Chambers will both be looking for strong defensive displays to ensure the big New Zealand Warriors centres and wingers are not given the space and opportunity to attack with pace and speed.
Billy Slater adds pace to the backline and will be looking to finish any attacking opportunity, through his ability to beat the man on the outside and feed his wingers with short passes when on attack. Slater's support play for his outside backs has been outstanding this season and he has combined well with Duffie and Justin O'Neill.
Ryan Hoffman and Kevin Proctor will both be looking to limit the potential of the Warriors forwards in offloading the ball in the tackle. Hoffman adds size to the Melbourne Storm pack and Proctor will look to push through tackles on the side of the ruck to give Melbourne Storm opportunity to attack through the forwards.
Jason Ryles will be eager to meet the direct aggression and size of the New Zealand Warriors forwards with his proven ability to lead from the front and limit their efforts to dominate the ruck.
Opposition to watch out for:
New Zealand Warriors will look to attack Melbourne Storm from all areas of the ground but most noticeably it will be their halves pairing of James Maloney and Shaun Johnson that will be critical to this game.
Maloney has a strong running game and Johnson will look to spot gaps in the Melbourne Storm backline and push short passes to test the defence of Melbourne Storm close to the ruck.
Manu Vatuvei on the wing is a crowd favourite with his size and aggression and will be looking to use these assets to finish try scoring movements, through his ability to run straight and commit a number of Melbourne Storm players in the tackle.
Feleti Mateo has been a consistent performer for the New Zealand Warriors this year and his offloading of passes when on attack combined with his height will test the Melbourne Storm forward pack when he is attacking the line.
Russell Packer and Ben Matulino add size to the forward pack and their ability to make good metres to establish territory for their halves to attack is a constant feature of both players performances this season.
Melbourne Storm has a 48% win rate against the New Zealand Warriors in all NRL games played between the two sides. The Warriors recorded a 20-12 preliminary final win last year in Melbourne.
The New Zealand Warriors won this corresponding ANZAC Day fixture last year 18-14.
Melbourne Storm defeated the Warriors in New Zealand in Rd 16 last year 16-8.
Melbourne Storm will be looking for their eighth consecutive win of this season and are currently sitting first on the NRL table with the New Zealand Warriors in ninth spot.
Games between these two sides have been historically close and hard fought contests and it has often come down to the closing minutes before it has been settled. Melbourne Storm is coming off a gutsy win over the Canterbury Bulldogs and the New Zealand Warriors dominated South Sydney Rabbitohs to win comfortably last week.
Confidence is a big factor in this traditional encounter and it will be no coincidence if this game once again becomes a nail biter for fans of both sides.
Having considered all aspects; this game is a special occasion and one that recognises the importance of these two countries on ANZAC Day and representation of both countries in the NRL.
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