The Storm must aim to target Jarome Luai’s injured shoulder in Saturday’s preliminary final if they are to have any chance to beat the Panthers according to James Graham.
Luai injured his shoulder in Round 26 but has been named to return against the Storm.
He is set to undergo a “vigorous” test at training on Wednesday to determine whether his shoulder is ready to go.
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Bulldogs supremo Phil Gould stated Luai is “a million-to-one” to recover in time from his shoulder injury.
Graham also thinks Luai is in doubt to play, believing it will be a “miraculous recovery” if the Panthers five-eighth takes his place.
“I’ve seen Gareth Widdop in a not too dissimilar situation and he took a lot longer. It took a lot of confidence to get back on the field,” Graham said on NRL 360.
“You’d be naive to think that the Melbourne Storm, a team that has been known for tactics to go and exploit weaknesses (won’t target Luai).”
Graham went onto say targeting Luai and captain Nathan Cleary’s finger, which he jarred on Monday before being cleared to play, are things “Melbourne have to do if they have a chance of winning”, referring them to the “dark arts.”
“You are going to have to be really honest and have a really difficult conversation with Jarome and see if he’s all in on this,” Graham said.
“He plays a style of football that you can see those positions repeating. On top of that, you know if Melbourne gets hold of him, think about what they might do to them.
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“The way Melbourne are playing at the moment, it is the only way they beat them. The only way they beat them is by the dark arts of football.
“You don’t go to injure the person, but you go to hurt him and if I was the Melbourne Storm, I’d make Nelson Asofa-Solomona the skipper and when Nathan Cleary comes out I’d grip it and squeeze his finger and make sure it’s alright.
“Cleary’s finger, Luai’s shoulder. These are all the type of things Melbourne are going to have to do if they are a chance of winning.”
The Daily Telegraph’s Dave Riccio delved into the fitness test Luai will have to pass on Wednesday before he can be cleared to play.
“Talking to Penrith officials this evening, the naming of Jarome Luai isn’t a smokescreen, it isn’t a whole heap of finals hullabaloo, there’s a deadset intention for Jarome Luai to play,” Riccio said on NRL 360.
“The biggest day of all as far as Luai playing in this prelim final is Wedneaday and that is when the integrity of the shoulder will be absolutely tested.
“It will come under the duress from James Fisher-Harris and Moses Leota.
“He could be withdrawn tomorrow if he doesn’t survive this test.”
Gorden Tallis interjected that Penrith “have to get Leota, Fisher-Harris and (Spencer) Leniu to come off the back fence and charge at (Luai) a couple of times.”
“You see (Jack) Cogger on the bench. That’s a luxury to carry a seven on the bench,” he said.
“You go at him as hard as you can. You got to test him out. You got to make sure that he’s right and charging at him as hard as you can. If you move on him then he’s getting isolated on that shoulder.”
Riccio said trying to target an injured player may be “easier said than done.”
“We saw Cooper Cronk get away with a premiership with a bung arm and we’ve seen in State of Origins in the past with Johnathan Thurston, the Blues failed to go after him,” Riccio said.
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“Not against the Melbourne Storm, not against Cameron Munster, not against how they can attack players,” Tallis replied.
Braith Anasta pointed to the fact that Luai will have his hands full with a Storm enforcer to be lined up on his side.
“If they can isolate someone, Melbourne can do it. And you have Nelson Asofa-Solomona on his side as well,” he said.
“And it might not be the straight on collision. If Nelson is running at him and he’s got to move late, then that’s what he might struggle with.”