Ok Go

Seven rounds into 2016 and the Warriormobile has made its usual spluttering start along the NRL’s Competition Road. A win against the Bulldogs breathed some life into the old girl but, as Shaun Johnson reminds us, it counts for very little unless the men from Mt Smart can keep their foot on the gas. As the first third of the season makes its way into the rear-view mirror, it does feel as though there’s a need for the Warriors to find some consistency soon or run the risk of not making their Finals destination before Mad Monday arrives. But, then, needing is one thing and getting is another.

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck’s season-ending injury is an unexpected pothole that’s forced a re-direction, with Tui Lolohea shifting to fullback and Thomas Leuluai slotting into the halves, but the return of Manu Vatuvei should at least help to generate some power out of the danger zone. At the other end of the field, a spine of Johnson, Leuluai, Lolohea and Luke had no trouble creating space and attacking opportunities last week against the Doggies, so there’s no reason why that can’t continue. And, anyway, scoring points is far from the biggest issue facing Warrior Nation — they sit fourth in the NRL for total points, behind only the Cowboys, Broncos and Sharks, who currently occupy the podium positions on the ladder and could very well still be there come Finals time.

Perhaps the biggest impact to the composition of the side in Tuivasa-Sheck’s absence can be found on the bench, where the inclusion of Jonathan Wright seems a cautious approach. Barring injury to someone in the backline, it’s hard to see Wright taking the field, effectively limiting the Warriors’ to a rotation of 16. I wouldn’t be shocked to see a late change, especially given the NSW Cup side has a bye, but as to who takes his place, that’s anyone’s guess. Another forward is the most logical move, Albert Vete perhaps, or will we see Konrad Hurrell return?

As for the Storm, they’re no longer the force they used to be, and are without two of their most potent weapons in Billy Slater and Will Chambers, but Melbourne have that canny knack of finding a way to win — just think back to Round 3. They’ve started their journey swiftly, with five wins from the first seven rounds, and their gameplan is built around doing all the basics right. They’ll look for the Kiwi forwards — primarily Jesse Bromwich, Tohu Harris and Kevin Proctor — to lead the way and set a platform for the likes of Cooper Cronk and Cam Smith to add the final touches whenever they get the opportunity. It’s a tried and true method that rarely strays from Craig Bellamy’s GPS and never takes any shortcuts, but it’s one that gives them a chance in almost every match. Hey, Warriors, watch out for that outside–inside move, it kills us every time.

No doubt the Storm will target Tui Lolohea in the air and on the ground, while also looking to shut down Shaun Johnson. They’ll thrive on the big occasion of Anzac Day, with the national anthems and the ‘Last Post’, and try to keep things as tight and as structured as possible. It’s often said that the men from Mt Smart are Melbourne’s so-called ‘bogey team’, but the Storm’s experience alone makes any trip to AAMI Park a difficult one to navigate.

I’d love to see the Warriors counter Melbourne’s mechanical play by really putting the pedal to the metal. Obviously they’ll need the forwards to achieve parity, but, if they can do that, a fast and furious approach might be the way to go, zigging and zagging all over the park. To me it feels like a game where the men from Mt Smart can ride their talent and creativity all the way to the two points, but if they’re at any level below their best, or run out of gas before the end of the 80 minutes, the Storm will simply take the lead, apply the brakes and never provide the opportunity to pass.

FLASHBACK

You can never get bored of watching this moment:

This one’s not bad either:

MATCH DETAILS

Vodafone Warriors V Melbourne Storm

AAMI Park, Melbourne

7.00pm (local, 9pm NZ), Monday, April 25

TEAMS

Warriors

1 Tuimoala Lolohea

2 David Fusitu’a

3 Blake Ayshford

4 Solomone Kata

5 Manu Vatuvei

6 Thomas Leuluai

7 Shaun Johnson

8 Sam Lisone

9 Issac Luke

10 Ben Matulino

11 Bodene Thompson

12 Ryan Hoffman (c)

13 Simon Mannering

Interchange:

14 Jonathan Wright

15 Jacob Lillyman

16 Charlie Gubb

17 Ligi Sao

Melbourne

1 Cameron Munster

2 Young Tonumaipea

3 Richard Kennar

4 Ben Hampton

5 Marika Koroibete

6 Blake Green

7 Cooper Cronk

8 Jesse Bromwich

9 Cameron Smith (c)

10 Jordan McLean

11 Kevin Proctor

12 Tohu Harris

13 Dale Finucane

Interchange

14 Kenneath Bromwich

15 Tim Glasby

16 Felise Kaufusi

17 Nelson Asofa-Solomona

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