The title favourites could be given some stiff competition as they round out the regular season.
Melbourne are looking to become the first team to notch 20 regular seasons on three separate occasions with the Storm having done so in 2006 and 2007.
They warmed up for this game with a thumping 64-6 win over the Rabbitohs at AAMI Park last week.
Canberra are now out of the finals race but could prove to be sticky opponents here especially if they want to throw the ball around. Winners of four of their past six, Canberra racked up 46 points last week in an 18-point win over the Knights.
MELBOURNE has been the benchmark team for most of the season.
After their defeat of the Dragons in Round 9, Melbourne has looked like the team to beat for the title because prior to that the Red V had been the clear standouts in the first two months of the season.
Since that match the Storm has only lost three times with two of those coming during the Origin period when they were missing a sizable chunk of their squad.
Craig Bellamy’s men haven’t relented in the lead in to the finals despite the fact they sit six points clear of the second placed Sydney Roosters. They have won by 32 and 58 points in the past fortnight.
The Storm are averaging 26.1 points per game this season while conceding just 14.34 – clearly the best team in the competition for both categories.
WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN?
CANBERRA will go into this game thinking this should have been an early preview of semi-final footy.
Last season these teams squared off at this venue for the right to go through to the Grand Final. This season, Melbourne look as though they will return to the big one but the Raiders will narrowly miss getting into the top eight.
Ricky Stuart’s side never really got going in 2017 but four wins from their past six games over the Rabbitohs, Sharks, Warriors and Knights showed glimpses of the type of form many of us expected.
Their attack has been firing of late with an average of 36 points scored during each those four wins.
That should put the Storm on notice because when the Green Machine does click into gear they can beat anybody. With nothing to play for now, Canberra could play some adlib footy and that is the only style that seems to break down Melbourne.
While they can’t make the finals, Canberra doesn’t like losing to Melbourne which was evident the last time they played in Round 20. In a spiteful clash, Sia Soliola was placed on report for a late hit on Billy Slater before subsequently being rubbed out for several matches.
Soliola is due to return to the Raiders line-up here.
MELBOURNE has had the measure of Canberra in recent times.
That should come as no surprise though as the Storm have a superior record against most teams in the NRL, if not all of them.
Margin players will be keen to note that there hasn’t been a great deal between either side since Melbourne’s 64-point annihilation of the Raiders back in 2013. Since then, the average winning margin has been just seven points through six matches.
If you are looking at the tryscorer markets and fancy having something on Suliasi Vunivalu, here is something to consider. The NRL’s joint leading tryscorer needs one more four-pointer to claim the title for a second straight season, however, in his three games against the Raiders he has failed to score each and every time.
Canberra are the only team Vunivalu hasn’t scored against. He is $7.50 @ bet365 to be first tryscorer here.
MELBOURNE are premiership favourites for a reason and we don’t think they will let things slip this close to the finals.
They are short enough at $1.33 (Centrebet) but deserve to be and the inconsistency we have seen from Canberra just doesn’t convince us to take the price about them springing the upset.
The Green Machine will give them a game that much we are convinced of because of the bad blood between the sides and the rivalry that exists between the two coaches. Take the 1-12 winning margin for the home side as we think that is the way to go for value players.
MELBOURNE 1-12 WINNING MARGIN