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NRL Stats Breakdown Rd 15: Sydney Roosters v Melbourne Storm

Melbourne Storm hooker and captain Cameron Smith

A grand final rematch from last season, and the tensions are high. The Sydney Roosters got the better of the Melbourne Storm who will be out for blood.

Both these sides are powerhouses and both will want to continue their dominance moving forward.

As always, it should be another tremendously good fixture.

Sydney Roosters v Melbourne Storm Stats Breakdown

The Sydney Roosters and Melbourne Storm have played each other on 38 occasions; the Roosters have won 17 games, the Storm have won 20 and there has been one draw.

The Roosters need to score just five points to score 700 total points against the Storm. The Storm need just 23 points to score 800 total points against the Roosters.

The first clash between the two sides was in round 21, 1998, in a 32-20 win to the Melbourne Storm.

Top try-scorers in this clash

Anthony Minichiello (SYD) – 10
Billy Slater (MEL) – 9
Marcus Bai (MEL) – 8
Shaun Kenny-Dowall (SYD) – 6
Matt Sing (SYD) – 5
Brad Fittler (SYD) – 5
Craig Fitzgibbon (SYD) – 5
Steve Turner (MEL) – 5
Greg Inglis (MEL) – 5
Cooper Cronk (MEL/SYD) – 5

Top point-scorers in this clash

Cameron Smith (MEL) – 2 tries, 59 goals & 1 field goal (122 pts)
Craig Fitzgibbon (SYD) – 5 tries & 39 goals (98 pts)
Matt Orford (MEL) – 3 tries & 20 goals (52 pts)
James Maloney (MEL/SYD) – 22 goals (44 pts)
Anthony Minichiello (SYD) – 10 tries (40 pts)
Latrell Mitchell (SYD) – 3 tries, 12 goals & 1 field goal (37 pts)
Billy Slater (MEL) – 9 tries (36 pts)
Marcus Bai (MEL) – 8 tries (32 pts)
Steve Turner (MEL) – 5 tries & 3 goals (26 pts)
Shaun Kenny-Dowall (SYD) – 6 tries (24 pts)

Former Sydney Roosters fullback Anthony Minichiello

Head coaching records

Graham Murray (MEL) – 3/4 (75%)
Chris Anderson (MEL) – 3/5 (60%)
Craig Bellamy (MEL) – 16/28 (57.1%)
Brian Smith (SYD) – 2/4 (50%)
Trent Robinson (SYD) – 6/13 (46.2%)
Ricky Stuart (SYD) – 3/7 (42.9%)
Brad Fittler (SYD) – 2/5 (40%)
Phil Gould (SYD) – 1/3 (33.3%)
Mark Murray (MEL) – 1/4 (25%)
Chris Anderson (SYD) – 0/1 (0%)

Players to have played for both sides

  1. Michael Crocker – 2001-2005 (SYD) & 2006-2008 (MEL)
  2. David Kidwell – 2002 (SYD) & 2003-2006 (MEL)
  3. Brett Finch – SYD (2003-2006) & 2009-2010 & 2013 (MEL)
  4. Cooper Cronk – 2004-2017 (MEL) & 2018-2019 (SYD)
  5. Chris Walker – 2003-2005 (SYD) & 2006 (MEL)
  6. George Rose – 2004-2005 (SYD) & 2014 (MEL)
  7. Richard Fa’aoso – 2005 (SYD) & 2012 (MEL)
  8. Nate Myles – 2007-2011 (SYD) & 2017 (MEL)
  9. Sisa Waqa – 2009 (SYD) & 2011-2014 (MEL)
  10. Jason Ryles – 2010-2011 (SYD) & 2012-2013 (MEL)
  11. James Maloney – 2009 (MEL) & 2013-2015 (SYD)
  12. Lagi Setu – 2013 (MEL) & 2015 (SYD)

Biggest winning margins

The Melbourne Storm’s biggest win over the Sydney Roosters was a 46-0 romp in round 14, 2016.

The Sydney Roosters biggest triumph over the Melbourne Storm was a 41-6 victory in round 19, 2000.

Players to be sin-binned/sent-off in this fixture

  1. Sam Perrett (SYD) sin-binned in round 2, 2006.
  2. Victor Radley (SYD) sin-binned in round 16, 2018.
  3. Cameron Munster (MEL) sin-binned twice in the 2018 NRL grand final.

Ricky’s NRL Interviews Pt 18: Luke Dorn

Luke Dorn during his time at the Manly Sea Eagles

The interviews continue, as we had a chat with Luke Dorn about life, footy, a re-energising English stint and life after the game.

Here are his answers, we hope you enjoy them:

1. What is your earliest memory of rugby league?
My earliest memory was watching the 89 grand final. My grandfather was a Balmain supporter which made me one. I cried when they lost. I was only 7. 

2. You played for the Northern Eagles and the Manly Sea Eagles; what do you remember of your debut game and your time at the club?
My debut was a blur. I remember being back in the sheds with guys like Geoff Toovey and Mark Carroll thinking, “wow, this is amazing.”

And to play with guys like Steve Menzies and Nik Kosef was incredible. 

My first touch was a kick and Luke Ricketson absolutely hammered me after the kick but I bounced up with adrenaline.

We got a penalty and ended up winning the game. It was a great start to my career. 

I loved my time at the Eagles. Some of my best friends are from that time. 

We were very close and the senior players looked after us so well. 

I wasn’t there for very long, however, I have a great love for the club still.

3. You made the shift to England and enjoyed success with the London Broncos; what prompted your move to the club?
I was playing reserve grade at the Roosters when the call came. I had a group of friends just move to London to travel and live.

London didn’t give me long to decide, so I just went for it. It seemed an incredible opportunity to get paid to play footy in London, so I grabbed it.

I had to pack up and leave in a few weeks. Again, I had a great time in London.

Very much like Melbourne in Australia, you are all from other parts of the world and countries, and you just become such a close family.

We made the playoffs in my first year which was great. It was a wonderful time in my life.

London will always have a special part of me. My eldest daughter Roxy was born there. 

I proposed to my wife there also.

4. How different did you find the Super League compared to the NRL?
To be honest, I didn’t notice a great difference when I was there. If anything, it was more an open style but the difference between the top teams and bottom teams was the biggest difference overall.

St Helens, Bradford, Leeds and Wigan were all incredible teams full of internationals.

It was always a big task to match them.

5. Your final years of professional rugby league came with the Castleford Tigers where you made the Challenge Cup final; what was it like to play at the Wembley Stadium?
I am going to sound like a broken record, but Castleford was a brilliant time for me. I loved playing there.

The ground is so old and atmospheric. The people are incredibly passionate and loyal and they made me feel very welcome.

I think it was also where I played my best footy.

Daryl Powell had a style that suited me and some great players were added in. I guess it comes with being older and wiser and learning the game better.

Playing at Wembley was easily the best football experience I had. 

Such an iconic ground for rugby league and for sport in general. Thinking about walking out still gives me chills.

However, we didn’t play very well and lost. But that doesn’t take away from good of an experience it was. 

6. Post-footy, what are you up to now and do you still have an active interest as a fan?
I am the coach of the mighty Maitland Pumpkin Pickers. I always wanted to come back and contribute to my area where it all started.

And I am glad that I did. Coaching has been great fun. I played the first two years which was great fun.

I actually took my daughter to the Knights game against the Roosters recently, which was the first game I have watched live as a fan since I was probably 16. 

It was nice to just watch and enjoy the game. I must admit, the atmosphere made me miss it a little bit. 

I head up the corporate division for a company called Minetek. We supply mining equipment such as underground fans. 

There is a bit of travel involved with is good fun. I very much enjoy the role as it is primarily about building relationships.

7. If you could give advice to any budding rugby league player, what would it be?
Work as hard as you can, be patient, and take all of your opportunities. 

You never know where they will take you.

If you work hard and have a great attitude to learning and development, you can end up anywhere. 

Luke Dorn playing for the Maitland Pumpkin Pickers

Ricky’s NRL Interviews Pt 14: Martin Lang

Penrith Panthers prop Martin Lang

There’s been a bit of a hiatus with the NRL player interviews but it’s back and rating to go! 

We had a brief chat with former Penrith Panthers, Cronulla Sharks and Queensland Maroons prop, Martin Lang.

A no-nonsense, hard-running and determined forward, Lang was the workhorse of any team he played for and a well-respected player.

Our chat covers his early days of league, his NRL stint and that famous tackle from the 2003 NRL grand final.

1) What are your earliest memories of rugby league? 

My father taking me to Lang Park in the 80’s to watch State of Origin.

2) Your father John Lang is a name etched in rugby league folklore; what was it like to have him as a father who loved rugby league and how did he help you become a better player and person?

My father is a man of high moral fibre. He provided both myself and my siblings with a wonderful childhood, never putting pressure on us and supporting whatever we chose to do.

He never pushed rugby league onto me. I pushed rugby league onto myself. 

3) You made your debut at the Cronulla Sharks in 1996; what do you remember of your first game and were you expecting the call up? 

I remember the game well, playing at the SFS against the Roosters alongside Les Davidson was very surreal. 

I wasn’t really expecting the call up but was being mentioned around the place as I’d had a good year in reserve grade. I was 20 years old.

4) After numerous seasons at the Sharks, you moved to the Panthers in the early 00’s; what prompted that move out West?

I went to Penrith to play under Royce Simmons who I have a tremendous amount of respect for, both as a coach and a person. 

I didn’t re-sign at the Sharks because playing under Chris Anderson wasn’t something that appealed to me. 

5) Of course, that move out West lead to a premiership with Penrith in 2003; what was it like to lift the premiership trophy with such a talented team?

The premiership with Penrith was the culmination of many years of hard work but not quite getting there. 

To win it with my father was special. Dad deserved that more than anyone. 

6) We also have to ask – Scotty Sattler’s now famous tackle on Todd Byrne on that very game in that very game is still talked about and replayed to this very day; what do you remember of the moment?

The Sattler tackle. It really epitomised who Scott was and how he played his whole career. 

Most of the little one percenters that Scott did on the field wouldn’t get noticed by the wider public but his teammates and coaches did. 

I thought it was fitting that he would finally get the recognition he deserved for a play that he’d be making his entire career. 

7) You also played Origin for Queensland; how does Origin differ from the NRL arena and what did mean to you to don the Maroons jersey? 

Origin was a very surreal experience. I grew up in Brisbane as an Origin fanatic as a child. 

To become an Origin player and have the opportunity to play alongside so many great players I’d admired from afar was an overwhelming experience. 

My father and I were the first father/son to do so. 

8) After a career that spanned almost a decade, you retired in 2004; what have you been up to in the years since?

I studied at University doing a biomedical/exercise science degree and now work in the medical device industry specialising in the spine area. 

Pizza delivery for Ronald McDonald House as Sharks players come to town

Good deeds happen more often than you think in rugby league but often, are not given the light of day via mainstream media channels. 

Take Cronulla Sharks players Chad Townsend and Matt Moylan.

The two are stars at their club, busy with training, games, media commitments and much more.

In their own time, however, they took it upon themselves to put a smile on kids’ faces.

For those unfamiliar with Ronald McDonald House, the work they do in preserving families and assisting with ill children is tremendous.

Their services allow families to stay close together for love and support, while also keeping them close to the care and medical facilities their child needs.

Quite often, these kids are sad at not being able to lead a normal life like so many of their peers.

This is where actions like these, where footy players go out and deliver pizzas and just talk to the kids, makes so much difference.

The wide grins from the kids tells the whole story and how much visits like these mean to them.

For more information on the Ronald McDonald House or if you want to donate, visit rmhc_sydney on Instagram or rmhc.org.au.

Garry Jack: What playing for the Tigers meant to me

Balmain Tigers fullback Garry Jack

One of the greatest ever players to don the Balmain Tigers jersey, Garry Jack has long been a fan favourite of the diehards. 

Speaking with Westslife Podcast, Garry Jack opened up on his playing career, what the club meant to him and what life has held post-footy.

Jack wears his heart on his sleeve when it comes to the Tigers and he gave his thoughts on where the current team is at.

“I think given that where things were at last year with Ivan Cleary, when I found out he was leaving, I was disappointed,” said Jack.

“When I found out we were getting Maguire [Michael] to come on board, I thought that was a better fit for the club.”

Looking to improve on previous years, Jack believes the Tigers can push for higher honours.

“They’ve got a good squad, I think he [Maguire] has a great brain for picking out talent and he will develop these players,” said Jack.

Wests Magpies Garry Jack

Jack’s rugby league career began far away from the black and white of the Magpies realm in Wollongong.

“I played for Wests Illawarra which is the Red Devils down there from U7’s all the way through to first-grade,” the Balmain legend continued.

“My father played down there, my grandfather played down there, so I’m from a football family.”

Jack played alongside another Balmain legend in Steve ‘Blocker’ Roach, one of the club’s greatest ever props.

“Blocker [Steve Roach] was the year behind me and we played U17’s together,” Jack said.

“We went to the same high school, Blocker and I.

“He went to Balmain as a junior and I stayed at Wests Illawarra.”

Balmain Tigers prop Steve Roach, long-time teammate of Garry Jack.

It was then a catch-up following a touch footy game that would change the trajectory of Jack’s rugby league career forever.

“I was offered a trial and a chance to get fit and so I drove up there every day,” Jack said, excited at the opportunity.

“Garry Dowling, Johnny Ribot, Terry Lamb, Allan Neale were all there.

“We all trained with the first-grade squad; I was just one of the young fellas coming through.

“I played the trials and Roy Masters pulled me aside and wanted to offer me a contract.”

Balmain Tigers legend Garry Jack playing against the Parramatta Eels

The decision at the time for a young Jack was not easy but the chance in Sydney was too hard to give up.

“My dad was with me and I said I didn’t want to come to Sydney, I wanted to stay in Wollongong,” Jack said, telling the story.

“He said it was a great opportunity to come up and I think you’re going to end up as a five-eighth, not as a fullback.

“That’s what his advice to me was. That was good advice from Roy, hehe.”

The move to Wests led to a move to Balmain where Jack truly hit his stride as a player.

“There were about four clubs interested in me [Canberra, Eastern Suburbs, Illawarra and Balmain],” said Jack of the interest in him at the time.

“I suppose the biggest factor was that Keith Barnes came to my house in Sydney and he was good mates with the recruitment officer back in those days.

“We had a chat for three hours and he told me wanted a fullback for the future.

The powerhouse 1989 Balmain team featuring Garry Jack, Paul Sironen, Steve Roach and Wayne Pearce.

“They had Wayne Pearce coming through, a guy called Benny Elias coming through.

“I took a couple of weeks to decide but then I called him back and said I’d love to join the club, so I did.”

Although Jack’s Balmain side made two grand finals and lost both, the former fullback has watched them back since and forgot just how good they were.

“We actually did sit together once at Fox Studios in 2005,” Jack reminisced.

“We sat in a nice big booth there and watched the game. I’d never seen the game from 89 in 2005.

“My recollection of it after watching was what a great game it actually was! I was just so disappointed that we had lost.”

Australian representative Garry Jack

Jack also played for both the Sheffield Eagles and the Salford Red Devils in England, and opened up on the English game and his experiences there.

“It was a lot of fun. I was there for three years,” said Jack.

“I went to Sheffield Eagles in 1992-93 and had a great time over there. They were a young team and we made the final of the Yorkshire Cup.”

“The following year I was approached by Salford as a player-coach for a year and then coach the next year.

“I loved being a full-time professional and loved my time as coach for Salford.”

That experience as player-coach at Salford fuelled Jack’s desire to look at long-term coaching back in Australia.

“I loved coaching at Salford and a personal goal of mine was to try and come back here and coach in Australia,” Jack said.

Garry Jack during his time at Salford

When his time in England came to an end, Jack still felt fit enough to play on.

As luck would have it, he would rejoin the Balmain side alongside former team-mate Ellery Hanley.

“I feel really good,” Jack said, who was 34 at the time.

“I trained hard for six weeks, spoke to the club and when I got back to Australia, the club and Wayne Pearce gave me an opportunity.

“I played 11 games to end the year and I like to think I helped them there to steady the ship.”

Balmain meant so much to Jack and he enjoyed his second stint as much as his first.

“I was very fortunate; Balmain fans gave me a great reception when  I left in 92,” he said.

“I loved all my time at Balmain. I just loved the club, the joint and made plenty of great mates and memories from that era.

Balmain Tigers utility Ellery Hanley, a team-mate of Garry Jack’s.

As most players do, you learn that life is not all about footy and that pre-planning for your life post retirement is more important than ever.

“For the last 12 months, I’ve worked for the TAB,” said Jack.

“The last six months, that has led me into the Digital Acquisitions which means when you go to a hotel or club and you’re on your phone, I help sign people up on the TAB app.

“I have a lot of younger people and students going around to hotels and that sort of stuff.

“I’m responsible for their training.”

To listen to the full Westslife podcast, click the link and follow the Westslife podcast on Twitter (@WestsLifePod).

Tigers fans and rugby league fans in general, if you do not do so already, you can also follow Garry Jack on twitter (@jimmyjack244).

Storm rattle the Eels back to 16th

The Melbourne Storm took to AAMI Park looking to break a rare losing streak and secure equal first place while Parramatta Eels were looking to continue a rare winning streak and avoid the wooden spoon.

The game went much more in the way of the home side as they rattled the bottom ladder team to secure a 20-4 win despite an injury to captain Cameron Smith. 

Melbourne were out to prove their dominance early in the game with 4 repeat sets forcing Parramatta to defend strong early on.

Will Chambers finally broke the Parramatta defense after beating George Jennings for the retrieval of a floating kick to score Melbourne’s first points.

The two teams fought hard for the remainder of the half, however, Parramatta’s lack of discipline secured a handy 10-point lead for the Storm with Smith kicking two penalty goals. 

With 10 minutes to go in the half, Cameron Smith left the field with a back injury after an awkward tackle from Parramatta enforcer Nathan Brown. 

The injury was deemed severe enough to keep Smith out for the remainder of the game and cement concern amongst the fans.

Parramatta came out firing in the second half, however, Melbourne’s defensive pressure managed to hold them out despite multiple repeat sets. 

The visitors were granted a prime opportunity when Cameron Munster was sin binned, although they were unable to capitalise on this advantage. 

With a player in the bin and their captain in the sheds, the Storm dug deep and found their next points through Nelson Asofa-Solomona who steamrolled over multiple Eels defenders to get the ball down.

Parramatta’s lack of composure and defensive pressure from the Storm kept them scoreless and obviously rattled.

The Storm strengthened their lead with a try to Curtis Scott who took on a tired, disheartened Parramatta defensive line.  

The home team were unable to keep the boys in blue and gold pointless however with Clinton Gutherson showing incredible acrobatic skills to put a Brad Takairangi ball down in the corner. 

A late no try to Mitchell Moses kept Parramatta’s final tally at 4 and the Melbourne Storm equal first. 

Eels coach Brad Arthur did not mince words. A lack of execution is what cost his side.

“We created some opportunities that we didn’t take – you can’t do that against close to the top side in the competition,” he said.

“We were our own worst enemy.

“We needed more patience at the try line.

“We don’t need to score off every play.

We needed to be more patient and build some pressure on the try line.”

The big talking point will be the Cameron Smith injury, though there was some positive news with it, for it could just be back spasms.

“Cameron [Smith] just had a spasm in joints in his back which he’s had before,” Melbourne Storm coach Craig Bellamy said.

“I don’t know if there will be X-rays or anti-inflammatories.

I don’t think it’s anything too serious but how serious is, I don’t know, especially with backs.”

Player  of the Match:

3. Brodie Croft

2. Jesse Bromwich

1. Dale Finucane

The Surprise of the Sydney Roosters is Not a Surprise At All

Trent Robinson came into action for the Sydney Roosters 5 years ago in 2013. Since then, each season seems to have gone along the same path – aside from the 2016 season which many are still scratching their heads over.

In his debut season as coach for the tri coloured boys from Bondi, Robinson found himself with the minor premiership crown.

This accomplishment however, came very unexpected for many particularly the South Sydney Rabbitohs. This was a season in which the Rabbitohs dominated for a large portion of the season. They enjoyed a glorious 12 weeks on top of the ladder before the Roosters took over at the tail end of the season. From there, the most entertaining cat and mouse chase came alive as the two fought for the minor premiership. Eventually, with an incredibly point differential of +315 the Roosters were crowned minor premiers.

Four weeks later, they were holding the trophy high and mighty in front of a sold out ANZ stadium. Not a bad start for the new boy in town.

2014 came along and fans were feeling déjà vu.

The Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles were sitting nice and pretty on the top of the ladder for 10 weeks from round 15 onwards. They had one week where the Panthers took over due to point differential but the moment passed very quickly and the Sea Eagles enjoyed 8 weeks on top of the ladder looking like sure minor premiers.

They lost in round 26. The Roosters did not.

By point differential, the Roosters took home the minor premiership and finished the season in the preliminary finals after falling short to the Rabbitohs who went on to win the whole thing.

2015. Same deal.

The Brisbane Broncos led the competition for 11 weeks, until round 24 when the Roosters took over and won the minor premiership.

2016 is the dark year for Coach Robinson. A year that he definitely does not want to remember and would very happily bury it dead. Let’s call this year the exception to the rule.

2017 was dominated by the Melbourne Storm in every single way. They seemed to have won the premiership back in round 3 however, the Sydney Roosters still gave them a good run for their money. Recovering from a year from hell, Robinson kicked his team into action however the trend still followed. The run home didn’t fully take place until the tail end of the season.

Whether it’s the impact that State of Origin has on the competition or something else, I don’t know. History does not lie however.

Under the guidance of Trent Robinson, the Sydney Roosters have not been a long running, dominating team in the NRL.

They are not a poor team by any means.

They are a team however, that peaks late. They peak when it well and truly matters.

Can history repeat itself this year? With the way Cooper Cronk, James Tedesco, Luke Keary, Latrell Mitchell, Victor Radley etc etc are firing? Yes. It definitely can.

Reflecting on the past 5 years I find it incredibly fitting that the Sydney Roosters have an extremely high chance of winning the minor premiership and the NRL premiership come September.

Former NRL prop Mose Masoe re-signs with Hull KR

Hull KR prop Mose Masoe

Now making a name for himself in the Super League, former NRL prop Mose Masoe has re-signed with Hull KR.

The hulking prop has agreed to a three-year extension with the Rovers.

Since joining from the St George Illawarra Dragons,  Masoe has played 25 games for the Rovers, scoring three tries.

Ultimately, there was just one place he wanted to be at and that was Hull KR.

“I’m stoked with the new contract,” said Masoe.

“There’s a lot of great people at this club and I’m happy to be staying here.”

With family such a key part of Masoe’s culture, their wellbeing is important and they have settled in well.

“Off the field, my family have really settled into the area,” continued the prop.

“One of my kids is at school, the other is enjoying nursery and my missus is in a routine.

We’ve all been made to feel welcome and a happy family makes life easier for me.

Everything is going well and whilst that might not have always shown on the field, we’ve got a great group of boys here and that made this decision even easier.”

Masoe went on to praise the side for their tenacity and knows that they can become even better.

“It’s been a tough year for injuries but it’s good to have a lot of the lads back now because I see a lot of potential in this side,” continued Masoe.

“We’ve got some good older guys and some great young kids coming through.

“We’ve lost some real 50/50 matches this season where I don’t think we were mentally ready, but everybody across the club is working hard to get better.”

“We’ve beaten some top teams and come really close against some others.

“Putting that together consistently is key for us moving forward, but I don’t think we are far off.”

Masoe believes in the ability of his side and wants to do his part to help Hull KR finish the season well.

“I believe in that process and if we can keep working on those combinations and people stay healthy, then we can give it a good shot at the back end of the year,” continued Masoe.

“For me personally, I’ve been pretty happy with how I’ve been going but I’ve still got a lot of things to work on, which is good.

I know deep down that there’s still more I could be contributing to the team, but I’m just happy to be back playing footy week in, week out for a great club.”

Storm prove far too clinical for Warriors

Cameron Munster

The Melbourne Storm will tell you that whilst it might not have been their best performance, they will take the win as they cruised to a 26-10 win over the New Zealand Warriors in Auckland last night.

With torrential rain threatening to make conditions difficult for both sides, the Storm proved that they can adapt to any conditions, making just 7 errors.

Whilst it is not a long-term thing, the loss of Roger Tuivasa-Sheck due to concussion hurt the Warriors chances in a game that they failed to wrestle any momentum in.

Just seven minutes into the game, the Storm were on the board with Cronk and Kenny Bromwich combining and they could have had another one had the bunker not denied them a try.

The Warriors fought their way back into the contest at this point and scored two unanswered tries to take the lead before the Storm retook the lead through a Cheyse Blair try.

This marked a momentous occasion in the game for Storm captain Cameron Smith who became the first Queenslander and forward to score 2000 points.

As the second half began, the Warriors should have scored again but Solomone Kata dropped the ball over the line in a handling error that ended up costing the Warriors.

In the end, further tries to winger Suliasi Vunivalu and Cooper Cronk plus a penalty goal by Smith sealed the Storm’s second win of the season.

Smith praised his side’s defence and knew they had to play a certain way in light of the conditions.

“We tried to kick long early … a combination of controlling the footy and tackling well, I thought our defence was great tonight, had a lot of intensity and energy, ” Smith said.

“Nice to be able to get two wins away on the road.

“We chanced our arm a bit and I think the Warriors tonight too so I thought it was a high quality game for the conditions.”

Player of the Game:

3. Cameron Munster

2. Cooper Cronk

  1. Shaun Johnson

Melbourne Storm 26 (Kenny Bromwich, Cheyse Blair, Suliasi Vunivalu, Cooper Cronk tries; Cameron Smith 5 goals) defeated New Zealand Warriors 10 (Tuimoala Lolohea, Shaun Johnson tries; Johnson 1 goal) at Mt Smart Stadium. Half-time: 12-10. Crowd: 9,811.

Ricky’s NRL Previews Pt 8: North Queensland Cowboys

A team regarded by many as their second favourite, the North Queensland Cowboys captured their elusive premiership in 2015 and are on the hunt for another. With virtually the same team at their disposal yet again, you can bet your house that they will challenge for the title once again. That task is always made more comforting when you have the world’s best half in Johnathan Thurston at your disposal.

As for their team, as mentioned above, there has been little change. The one major change, however, and a big talking point among the fans is the prop rotation. With the departure of James Tamou, a spot has opened up on the bench for a talented Cowboys youngster to cement it, make an impression and convince Paul Green that they are the man for the job. Whilst it looks likely that Scott Bolton will move into the now vacant starting role, the battle for the last couple of bench spots heats up.

Last year, John Asiata and Patrick Kaufusi were both in and out of first-grade and it is expected that they will be the two that battle it out for the vacant spot. Both hard running forwards in their own right, they have a big task ahead of them to fill the shoes of the impact off the bench that was Bolton. Not beyond them, the pre-season trials will be indicative of just how well accustomed they will be to making the next step. A smokey for the spot and one that is perhaps less talked about than the aforementioned to is Sam Hoare. A talented forward in his own right, his opportunities have been somewhat limited but not due to ability, rather injury. Fully fit, he now has the chance to make a claim of his own, as the Cowboys so desperately search for an impact forward.

Without question, the biggest talking point out of the Cowboys camp and among their fans and NRL fans in general is, what will the club do with Kalyn Ponga in season 2017? The NRL world knows that he is off to the Knights in 2018 but what to do in the meantime is the thought on everyone’s mind. His talent has been on display since he made his NRL debut in the back end of the finals series last year and again during the recent NRL Auckland Nines tournament. However, with Ponga stating that he is not expecting to start Rd 1 and coach Paul Green saying that Ponga will not be starting, just how much of the talented rookie will we see in season 2017?
Is it worth the Cowboys playing him and helping him to gain the match fitness and the game time, knowing full well that in 2018, he will no longer be with the club? With their side full of experience and set in stone, fans may want Ponga in the team regardless but at present, you would have to imagine that he will only play if there are injuries or suspensions.

With a team like the Cowboys, much of their chances for premiership success hinge on the success, form and consistency of star playmaker Johnathan Thurston. However, much like the success of their 2015 premiership win, they have the right amount of balance to make a serious tilt at the title once again.
We saw that determination through the likes of Jason Taumalolo, who enjoyed a career-best season last year that saw him as the joint winner of the Dally M Award and the Lock of the Year.
His form will have to be much the same and the others will have to step up and play their role if the Cowboys are to emulate their 2015 success.

Best Buy: The Cowboys have not recruited too many new players but the one standout as best buy on their list is Ben Hampton. A genuine utility, Hampton is a nifty, crafty player that had flashes of brilliance to produce good form. With a bench utility spot for grabs, it is a chance for Hampton to gain some consistent form and cement a spot in the side for the majority of the season. That seems a mere formality if the reported sides are to be believed but the selections come Rd 1 will be the ultimate factor, once Paul Green decides on the precise make-up of his squad.

Best Emerging Talent: To date, we have only seen him at Nines games and trials but it is just a matter of time before Gideon Gela-Mosby makes an NRL debut. A quick, pacey winger, aptly referred to as GGM, many Cowboys fans see him as the club’s future on the wing. A gifted player, he make the most of the opportunities he does get, illustrating his desire and love for the game and for the Cowboys club to try and earn that spot. Whilst the winger spots at the Cowboys are set in stone at present, should an injury arise, he may well be first cab off the rank in light of Ponga’s departure next season. He has been highly rated by Cowboys fans for the last few seasons, ever since he broke the Holden Cup record for most tries in a season.

2016 gains: Ben Hampton, Shane Wright & Corey Jensen.

Our predicted Cowboys line-up at full strength:

  1. Lachlan Coote
  2. Kyle Feldt
  3. Justin O’Neill
  4. Kane Linnett
  5. Antonio Winterstein
  6. Michael Morgan
  7. Johnathan Thurston (C)
  8. Matt Scott (C)
  9. Jake Granville
  10. Scott Bolton
  11. Gavin Cooper
  12. Ethan Lowe
  13. Jason Taumalolo

14. Ben Hampton
15. Coen Hess
16. Patrick Kaufusi
17. John Asiata