The first game on Saturday afternoon has the Melbourne Storm host the struggling Cowboys at AAMI Park, the two bottom ranked teams on the ladder but for very different reasons.
The Storm haven’t had a great record at their new home ground as yet, after losing on debut there to the Broncos back in Round nine, but they should be able to rise above the Cowboys this time.
Melbourne are coming into this match on the back of two losses, including the big 38 – 6 thrashing they suffered at the hands of the Roosters last week when their youngsters were put under pressure without their Origin stars.
This week Slater, Inglis, Cronk, White and Smith are all back and will be fired up after Wednesday’s match. But even though they have all been named, if all are fit won’t be known until game day. The return of their instrumental players has seen Ladbrokes.com.au install the Storm as the $1.58 favourites, while the Cowboys are the underdogs currently paying $2.40.
After a dismal recent record of just one win from their past four, North Queensland are now number 15 on the ladder, one above the Storm stripped of all competition points, and look to miss the finals alongside Melbourne.
They are coming off a 16 – 8 win ahead of the Raiders from last week, and with Tonga and Thurston hopefully back in the line-up after Origin duties, they will have a bit of confidence. But in a blow for the Cowboys, Luke O’Donnell will miss the next three matches after being handed a suspension for his dangerous spear tackle on Darius Boyd in the State of Origin game two.
But Melbourne will be keen to atone for their loss last week and so should win this one on the rebound. They have the stats in their favour having won 16 from 21 against the Cowboys, and even though the margin may not be as crushing as the Storm’s 34 – 6 win ahead of North Queensland in Round eight, it still hard to see the Cowboys doing too much damage here.
Current Head-to-Head Odds:
Storm $1.58 – Cowboys $2.40 Ladbrokes.com.au
Round 15 Storm Team:
1. Billy Slater 2. Matt Duffie 3. Dane Nielsen 4. Greg Inglis 5. Luke MacDougall 6. Brett Finch 7. Cooper Cronk 8. Bryan Norrie 9. Cameron Smith 10. Brett White 11. Adam Blair 12. Sika Manu 13. Todd Lowrie
Bench: 14. Ryan Hinchliffe 15. Kevin Proctor 16. Aiden Tolman 17. Jeff Lima
Round 15 Cowboys Team:
1. Matthew Bowen 2. John Williams 3. Willie Tonga 4. Will Tupou 5. Ashley Graham 6. Michael Morgan 7. Johnathan Thurston 8. Matthew Scott 9. Aaron Payne 10. Carl Webb 11. Scott Bolton 12. Willie Mason 13. Luke O’Donnell
Bench: 14. Anthony Watts 15. Steve Rapira 16. Leeson Ah Mau 17. James Tamou