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A week's rest and a spot in a preliminary final is on the line when the Melbourne Storm host Parramatta at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night.

Melbourne will be unconcerned about entering the clash off a last-start loss as their unshakeable hold on second spot granted them the luxury of fielding the second least-experienced side in NRL history against a Dragons outfit focused on a final dose of redemption for 2020.

As few as two players could back up for the first finals match with skipper Cameron Smith leading a returning contingent that includes all but two members, fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen and injured lock Dale Finucane, of the Storm's preferred starting 13.

Parramatta rebounded well to confirm their place in the top four after Wests Tigers looked on course to deny them the double chance in round 20 but will have to go up a couple of gears, and maintain that intensity for the full 80 minutes, if they are to challenge Melbourne.

The rundown

Team news

Storm: Darryn Schonig and Isaac Lumelume are the final cuts from the match-day squad.

Winger Suliasi Vunivalu (hamstring), bench prop Tino Fa'asuamaleaui (calf) and back-rowers Kenny Bromwich (head knock) and Felise Kaufusi (knee) will play after sitting out with minor injuries last week.

Forward Tui Kamikamica accepted a one-match ban for a shoulder charge but was in doubt with an ankle injury anyway.

Melbourne have received an exemption to replace Tom Eisenhuth (strained calf) in their squad with Chris Lewis. Albert Vete and Ryley Jacks were the other players omitted from the squad 24 hours before kick-off.

A host of rested stars have also returned to the line-up including hooker Cameron Smith, halves Jahrome Hughes and Cameron Munster, winger Josh Addo-Carr, centres Brenko Lee and Justin Olam, prop Jesse Bromwich and lock Nelson Asofa-Solomona.

Prop Max King was suspended for three games for a hip-drop tackle on Tuesday but wasn't named in the side. The Storm have won six from six in finals matches against the Eels.

Eels: Parramatta will start 1-17 with Dylan Brown confirmed to return early from ankle surgery at five-eighth. Ray Stone and Brad Takairangi are the final omissions from the match-day squad.

"He's got a good running game so we expect him to take the line on. He's put a lot of time into getting himself right," Brad Arthur said of Brown on Friday.

Will Smith has reverted to the bench. Michael Jennings has replaced Brad Takairangi at centre and Reagan Campbell-Gillard will return from a rest at prop with Kane Evans dropping to the bench.

Shaun Lane is back in the starting side with Andrew Davey on the pine. Marata Niukore (rib) is set to return on the interchange with Oregon Kaufusi, George Jennings and Daniel Alvaro all dropping out.  

Oregon Kaufusi and Daniel Alvaro were trimmed from the extended bench on Friday night. The Eels have the worst attacking record of any top-eight team.

Team Lists

Backs

  • Fullback for Storm is number 1 Ryan Papenhuyzen
    Fullback for Eels is number 1 Clinton Gutherson
  • Winger for Storm is number 2 Suliasi Vunivalu
    Winger for Eels is number 2 Maika Sivo
  • Centre for Storm is number 3 Brenko Lee
    Centre for Eels is number 3 Michael Jennings
  • Centre for Storm is number 4 Justin Olam
    Centre for Eels is number 4 Waqa Blake
  • Winger for Storm is number 5 Josh Addo-Carr
    Winger for Eels is number 5 Blake Ferguson
  • Five-Eighth for Storm is number 6 Cameron Munster
    Five-Eighth for Eels is number 6 Dylan Brown
  • Halfback for Storm is number 7 Jahrome Hughes
    Halfback for Eels is number 7 Mitchell Moses

Forwards

  • Prop for Storm is number 8 Jesse Bromwich
    Prop for Eels is number 8 Reagan Campbell-Gillard
  • Hooker for Storm is number 9 Cameron Smith
    Hooker for Eels is number 9 Reed Mahoney
  • Prop for Storm is number 10 Christian Welch
    Prop for Eels is number 10 Junior Paulo
  • 2nd Row for Storm is number 11 Felise Kaufusi
    2nd Row for Eels is number 11 Shaun Lane
  • 2nd Row for Storm is number 12 Kenneath Bromwich
    2nd Row for Eels is number 12 Ryan Matterson
  • Lock for Storm is number 13 Nelson Asofa-Solomona
    Lock for Eels is number 13 Nathan Brown

Interchange

  • Interchange for Storm is number 14 Brandon Smith
    Interchange for Eels is number 14 Will Smith
  • Interchange for Storm is number 15 Tino Faasuamaleaui
    Interchange for Eels is number 15 Andrew Davey
  • Interchange for Storm is number 17 Nicho Hynes
    Interchange for Eels is number 16 Kane Evans
  • Interchange for Storm is number 22 Chris Lewis
    Interchange for Eels is number 17 Marata Niukore

Match Officials

  • Referee: Ashley Klein
  • Touch Judge: Dave Munro
  • Touch Judge: Peter Gough
  • Senior Review Official: Steve Chiddy

Last updated:

Key match-up

Cameron Smith v Reed Mahoney. The challenge the young Parramatta No.9 is facing is as big as there is in the NRL. Smith is the master of controlling both the ruck area and the pace of a match.

Mahoney needs to keep this future Immortal on his toes and make him concentrate on his own game.

Stat attack

The Storm need to prepare for plenty of defending against second-phase play. The Eels finished the year with 276 offloads, easily the most in the NRL. The Storm finished fourth in that statistical category with 80 fewer offloads than Parramatta.