Everything is on the line for the Melbourne Storm and Cronulla Sharks on Friday, which has massive playoff implications.
The Storm currently lead the NRL, but a loss will see them give up the minor premiership. Securing the top spot is important for seeding and it also gives the club a financial boost.
Cronulla needs a win to secure a spot in the playoffs. It’s a congested ladder, so a loss will all but seal its fate.
Online betting markets are available for the Storm vs Sharks, which has the Storm as -9½-point favorites.
Melbourne Gets Wake-Up Call
With the all-time winning record on the line, the Melbourne Storm were unable to come up with the goods last week.
The shock 22-10 loss to the Parramatta Eels ended their winning streak at 19 – one shy of making history. It was a wake-up call for the premiership leaders, who will need to regain their spark against Cronulla.
It highlighted that no team is ever safe in the NRL, which is one of the world’s more even competitions.
Despite the minor premiership being on the line, coach Craig Bellamy is choosing to rest Cameron Munster, Christian Welch, Felise Kaufusi and Kenny Bromwich. Captain Jesse Bromwich is suspended and flying winger Josh Addo-Carr is injured, so they’re not at full strength.
— SuperCoach NRL (@SuperCoachNRL) August 25, 2021
Bellamy also has tough decisions regarding Ryan Papenhuyzen and Brandon Smith. Papenhuyzen hasn’t been the same player since getting severely concussed earlier in the season, but Nicho Hynes stepped up to the mark.
“He’s got the most critical decision of the season coming up,” Fox League reporter James Hooper told NRL.com. “He’s got to decide if he goes all in on Nicho Hynes and keeps Ryan Papenhuyzen on the bench.
“Does he go all in on Brandon Smith as his starting No. 9? I think we probably got the answer on Saturday night and that’s the way they’ll go.”
Most teams don’t have two world-class fullbacks to choose from, so it’s a nice problem to have.
NRL betting markets have the Storm -300 to win. It’s an expected line due to the Storm’s injuries, but considering Melbourne won 40-14 in its last meeting with Cronulla, we could see that line move closer to -400 on game day.
All or Nothing for Sharks
The Cronulla Sharks have won their last two games to stay in finals contention. They occupy the eighth and final spot, but the Canberra Raiders and Gold Coast Titans are circling around the Sharks.
They started with a 50-20 smashing of the Wests Tigers before gripping on to beat Brisbane 24-16 last week. It hasn’t been an easy road and with only 10 wins from 23 games, the Sharks have been anything but classy.
They have scored 263 points fewer than Melbourne and allowed 228 more, so the statistics are heavily in favor of the home side.
Are @Cronulla_Sharks finals bound?
— ABC SPORT (@abcsport) August 28, 2021
Cronulla also needs to turn around a 15-26 historical losing record against Melbourne, but with its back against the wall, it could come up with the goods.
The Sharks could pounce on the weakened Storm side, but trusting the Sharks to come up with the goods isn’t easy for bettors.
Matt Moylan has been promoted for the must-win clash, which is a bonus, and coach Josh Hannay believes his team belongs in the finals.
“You dare to dream, don’t you,” Hannay said. “We are one game away from doing the unthinkable in the eyes of many people, but the club has just got this attitude about playing finals.
“We don’t sit around having meetings about it but throughout the year at different times I have overheard guys having discussions among themselves about how ‘we have got to play finals.’ That’s who we are. We are a finals team.”
Sharks vs Storm Pick
It’s obvious the Melbourne Storm are the better team, but with a raft of players missing, we are picking the Sharks to keep it close.
Betting online is made easier with spread markets, so we’re going to take full advantage. We aren’t confident the Sharks can win the game outright, but 9½ points is a hefty advantage for a potential top-eight side.
They will need to start well, but our money is with the Sharks with the points.