There will be no rest for the injured and downright battered when the Melbourne Storm clash with the Sydney Roosters in the first NRL semi-final on Friday evening at AAMI Park.

It's Week 2 of the finals, and depth for the Storm and Roosters is going to be tested like it never had been before.

Both clubs have multiple injuries, with the Storm losing Ryan Papenhuyzen and Xavier Coates last week, while almost the entire Roosters' first-choice back five is sidelined.

The tri-colours undoubtedly carry the better form line of the two sides heading to the Victorian capital for a sudden death game where the winner will be rewarded with a seven-day turnaround before running into the Penrith Panthers juggernaut next Friday.

It might not have been pretty, but Trent Robinson's side managed to get one over the Cronulla Sharks last weekend with a Sam Walker field goal, desperate defence and incredible charge downs capping off the result in the Shire.

The Storm, on the other hand, had a mixed finish to the regular season before being held scoreless by the Brisbane Broncos last weekend in what may be their single worst display in the best part of two decades.

The men in purple looked as if they were strangers in attack and spent the second half defending equally as poorly.

It also meant the long-running hoodoo they have enjoyed over the Broncos was finally snapped, but will motivation to bounce back alone be enough to tackle a Roosters' side who have simply found ways to grind out wins in recent weeks?

There is also the storyline of Brandon Smith returning to Victoria for a final, but more on that soon.

Team news

Melbourne Storm
1. Nick Meaney 2. Will Warbrick 3. Marion Seve 4. Justin Olam 5. Reimis Smith 6. Cameron Munster 21. Tyran Wishart 8. Tui Kamikamica 9. Harry Grant 10. Christian Welch 11. Trent Loiero 12. Eliesa Katoa 13. Josh King
Interchange: 15. Tom Eisenhuth 16. Nelson Asofa-Solomona 17. Tariq Sims 19. Bronson Garlick
Reserves: 18. Grant Anderson 20. Tepai Moeroa

As mentioned above, the Storm lost Ryan Papenhuyzen to a devastating ankle injury last weekend, while Xavier Coates also had his season ended to a syndesmosis injury.

That brings Reimis Smith into the side on the wing, while Alec MacDonald was set to join the bench. He has since been cut from the 19-man side though, with Bronson Garlick coming in.

Justin Olam has also been picked at centre to make his return after Young Tonumaipea came up with six missed tackles last weekend in a horror defensive display against the Broncos.

The Storm have been forced into an additional late change too, with Jahrome Hughes missing through injury - it's believed it's the same injury which kept him out of Round 27. Tyran Wishart, who was named in the 22-man squad on Tuesday, will take over at halfback with Jonah Pezet also out injured in what could be a crippling blow for Craig Bellamy's side.

Sydney Roosters
1. James Tedesco 2. Fetalaiga Pauga 3. Paul Momirovski 4. Corey Allan 5. Jaxson Paulo 6. Luke Keary 7. Sam Walker 8. Fletcher Baker 9. Brandon Smith 10. Lindsay Collins 11. Siua Wong 12. Nat Butcher 13. Victor Radley
Interchange: 14. Sandon Smith 15. Egan Butcher 16. Terrell May 17. Angus Crichton
Reserves: 18. Drew Hutchison 19. Naufahu Whyte

The Roosters, as mentioned, come into this game without their usual centres and wingers. Daniel Tupou was already sidelined and has now been joined by Billy Smith (jaw), Joseph Manu (hamstring) and Joseph Suaalii (concussion).

Suaalii may be the only one of the quartet fit to return if the Roosters make the preliminary final, although Tupou is believed to be getting closer.

That means Junior Pauga continues from last week, while Paul Momirovski and Corey Allan slot into the centres, with Jaxson Paulo on the wing. Momirovski is playing his firs NRL game in many weeks, although Drew Hutchison is on standby in the 19-man squad.

Sam Walker and Brandon Smith also appeared to have minor ankle issues last week, but are fit to play against Melbourne.

Regular season matches

Round 6, Melbourne Storm 28 defeat Sydney Roosters 8 at AAMI Park, Melbourne
As is tradition, the Storm and Roosters clashed twice during the regular season, with the first coming in the Victorian capital during Round 6.

The Storm dominated the clash despite a slow start, where Jaxson Paulo was able to cross for the first try of the contest.

From there though, the Storm ran on 28 points through five tries without answer other than a penalty goal from the Roosters. Xavier Coates (who is out on Friday) crossed for a hat-trick, while Nick Meaney and Cameron Munster also got their names onto the scoresheet in what was a demolition job.

Round 20, Sydney Roosters 16 defeated by Melbourne Storm 30 at Sydney Cricket Ground
In what has been a mixed season for the Roosters at best, they couldn't manage to topple the Storm at home either.

Despite the scoreboard looking more competitive, two of the Roosters' three tries came in the final three minutes of the game, with the Storm leading 30 points to 4 prior to the tries.

Xavier Coates had a second field day of the season against the tri-colours with another hat-trick, while Jahrome Hughes and Harry Grant were the others to hit the scoreboard this time.

Daniel Tupou scores two of the Roosters' three tries, with Siua Wong being the other to cross the stripe.

Keys to the game

The Storm's spine clicking
Last week against the Broncos, the Storm looked like they had never met each other, so bad was their attack. It was an observation I made a handful of times on Zero Tackle's live blog, and Craig Bellamy had the same sum up in his post-game commentary.

If the Storm attack like that again, then it will matter little how many players are sitting on the sideline for the Roosters. Melbourne couldn't have put points on a Jersey Flegg team the way they played last weekend.

Really, the signs that the Storm weren't quite switched into the game were there from the opening minute when Harry Grant sparked a push and shove just three tackles into the game. It was completely and utterly out of character for the star dummy half.

Much of the result here could come down to the cohesiveness of the spine, but that will have its own questions to answer.

Jahrome Hughes, who has led things strongly for the Storm over many seasons, will miss out and be replaced by Tyran Wishart, who was dropped from his utility role by Craig Bellamy earlier this season.

Wishart is a high energy player, but needs to get through 80 minutes in a slightly unfamiliar role without mistake here for the likes of Cameron Munster, Nick Meaney and Grant to go off around him.

If he doesn't, the Storm's attack simply isn't going to improve on last week.

Brandon Smith and dummy half energy
As mentioned, Harry Grant was well below his best last weekend, but there is a real feeling that playing against a rival in the shape of Brandon Smith might bring the best out in him.

Smith, on the other hand, has really found his form as a dummy half in recent weeks.

The hooker has been among the best for the Roosters, with his running game freeing up the remainder of the spine to play their natural games with time and space.

It has undoubtedly improved the positional play of Luke Keary and Sam Walker, and also left James Tedesco feeling as if he can back out of the game slighlty, making every touch count, rather than looking for quantity over quality.

While the Roosters' attack was nothing to write home about last week, they got the job done, and the work of Smith was paramount to that.

He will need to be at his best again on Friday against his former side.


This is a very difficult game to tip, not made easier by all the recent injuries.

At home and on the back of last week's horror show, the Storm should bounce back, but Jahrome Hughes being out could be a real issue.

If Wishart does his job, then the Roosters' brittle outside defence probably can't hold a rampant Cameron Munster. The whole game could come down to that.

I'll back the Storm to get the job done.

Storm by 6.

Key game information: Melbourne Storm vs Sydney Roosters, NRL semi-final

Kick-off: 7:50pm (AEST), Friday, September 15
Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne
TV: Fox Sports, Channel 9
Online: Kayo Sports, Foxtel App, 9 Now
Betting: Storm $1.42, Roosters $2.90
Referee: Ashley Klein
Overall record: Played 47, Storm 28, Roosters 19
Record in finals: Played 4, Roosters 3, Storm 1

Zero Tackle will run a live blog, scores and stats of the game in our match centre from 7:50pm (AEST) on Friday evening.