It’s familiar territory for Craig Bellamy and his troops as they embark on yet another finals campaign.
In an incredible period of sustained excellence, the Purple Pride line up for there 10 consecutive finals appearance.
They do so on the back of 16 wins and 4 loss regular season.
Scoring points hasn’t been an issue for the Storm in 2020, they recorded 534 points which was the third-best in the league.
Their defence, which has been the bedrock of the Storm during the tenure of Bellamy was equally impressive; they conceded only 276 points, which was second-best in the NRL this season.
Success starved Parramatta, who are chasing their first premiership since 1986 enter the playoffs with a 15 and 5 record.
The Eels are looking to improve on their 2019 campaign which saw them demolish Brisbane in the first week, before being destroyed by ironically Melbourne in the second week.
They registered 392 points for and only 288 against.
Whilst Brad Arthur has instilled a toughness and desire in defence – third best in the competition, their attack at times has looked clunky, to say the least.
The Storm will look to establish themselves, early through a middle third assault.
Look for Smith to play very tight through Bromwich, Welch, and big NAS.
In addition, expect Mitchell Moses to come under heavy scrutiny from the Storm edge runners.
I expect that Kenny Bromwich and boom rookie Faasumalueaui to target Moses. NAS may also play a little wider at times.
As the game unfolds, look for Papenhuyzen to be sniffing around Smith and Jarome Hughes seeking to exploit tired defenders.
For the Eels, I believe they will look to move the Storm around with some second phrase play.
Look for some late offloads and tips on to unsettle the regimented Storm defence, from the ‘worlds biggest halfback’ – Junior Paulo.
At times, the Storm have looked a little shaky on the right-side defence. look for the Eels to get plenty of numbers down that edge to isolate Lee and Hughes.
The Eels will also be looking to gain early ascendency in the tackle count via the runs of Ferguson and Sivo.
In my opinion, Melbourne looks a lot more settled this season.
This is due to the continued development of Papenhuyzen and the outstanding form of Hughes, who provides an excellent foil for Smith and Munster, who both look fresh after missing some games late in the season.
The Storm have some excellent strike on the bench through Faasumalueaui and ‘the hyperactive piece of cheese’ – Brandon Smith.
However, they will sorely miss the work of Finucane in the middle, who I have massive wraps on.
Big games are won by big match players, for mine Mitchell Moses must dominate for the Eels to win.
He has developed a good combination with Matterson this season. Moses needs to probe and attack the Storm middle late in each half.
The inclusion of Dylan Brown is significant as the Eels have sorely missed his attack. He will certainly test the Storm on the edges through his speed and evasiveness
Sorry Eels fans, but .am tipping the Storm to win and progress to another preliminary final.
I expect a tight tussle in the first half before the class and guile of Smith and Munster swing it the way of the Storm.
However, the line of 13,5 is too much and if having a bet, I suggest taking the Eels at the plus.
Enjoy your finals footy!!