Manly Warringah Sea Eagles v Melbourne Storm
Saturday 8 March, 7pm
Broadcast: Fox Sports 1, Live from 7pm, NRL Digital Pass
After a long off season, rivals Melbourne and Manly will face off in a Round 1 blockbuster at Brookvale Oval on Saturday night.
Two of the game's modern day rivals will provide fans with an entertaining clash on the first weekend of the new seasons they look to start 2014 on the best possible note.
While near full strength, Manly and Melbourne are missing key playmakers for the Round 1 clash.
Wingers Jorge Taufua and David Williams are notable omissions for Geoff Toovey's outfit. With late changes possible for the hosts, Williams, who scored a hat-trick last time the two sides met in Round 25, 2013 is still a slim chance to line-up in the Sea Eagles' starting 17.
For Storm, Cooper Cronk has been given an extra week to recover from shoulder surgery and should be fit for Melbourne's first home game of the year in Round 2. The Dally M medallist's omission, along with the departure of playmakers Gareth Widdop and Brett Finch at the end of 2013 mean Melbourne will enter the new season with a brand new combination in Round 1.
Ben Roberts and Ben Hampton will occupy numbers six and seven on Saturday night with big shoes to fill. Hampton impressed in his first two first-grade matches of his career playing at fullback last year and has worked hard throughout pre-season to gain his opportunity at five-eighth. Roberts also gets a chance against the Sea Eagles after joining Melbourne late in pre-season training. The 28-year old brings plenty of NRL experience to the Storm line-up having played 130 first-grade games for the Eels and Bulldogs.
George Rose is another new Storm recruit who will take the field for the first time in purple on Saturday. The former Manly fan favourite has been named on an extended bench by Craig Bellamy and will not have to wait long to face his former side, making for an intriguing battle between the forwards.
With the loss of Rose and others, Brenton Lawrence will be expected to shoulder much of the responsibility for Manly's forwards in 2014. Lawrence produced a breakout year in 2013, stepping up in his first year on the north shore after playing 18 games in two seasons with the Titans.
In a historic moment for the club, Melbourne will field its second ever Victorian born and bred player on Saturday night with winger Young Tonumaipea selected to make his debut. Tonumaipea's selection comes off the back of an impressive pre-season and solid contributions in Melbourne's two trial matches and the club's Auckland Nines campaign. The Northern Thunder junior has played U18s and U20s with Melbourne and in 2012 won the club's NYC Player of the Year Award, scoring 11 tries.
The 21-year old will line up alongside fellow Victorian Mahe Fonua on Saturday night, forming an all Victorian left edge.
Referees – Gerard Sutton & Gavin Reynolds
Sideline Official – Steve Carrall, Nick Beashel
Video Referees – Jared Maxwell & Luke Patten
Head to Head:
Manly Warringah: 11
Last time they met:
Round 25, 2013 - Manly Warringah 28 (David Williams 3, Brett Stewart 2, Daly Cherry-Evans) defeated Melbourne Storm 8 (Justin O'Neill, Sisa Waqa)
Last 5 matches:
Round 25, 2013 - Manly Warringah Sea Eagles 28 (David Williams 3, Brett Stewart 2, Daly Cherry-Evans) defeated Melbourne Storm 8 (Justin O'Neill, Sisa Waqa)
Round 10, 2013 - Melbourne Storm 10 (Maurice Blair) drew with Manly Warringah Sea Eagles 10 (Jamie Lyon)
Preliminary Final, 2012 - Melbourne Storm 40 (Cooper Cronk 2, Billy Slater 2, Jesse Bromwich, Will Chambers, Kevin Proctor) defeated Manly Warringah 12 (Jamie Lyon)
Round 15, 2012 - Manly Warringah Sea Eagles 22 (Daly Cherry-Evans, Brett Stewart, Jorge Taufua, Dean Whare) defeated by Melbourne Storm 26 (Matt Duffie, Todd Lowrie, Bryan Norrie, Cameron Smith)
Round 25, 2011 - Manly Warringah Sea Eagles 18 (Tony Williams 2, Kieran Foran) defeated Melbourne Storm 4 (Billy Slater)
- Melbourne captain Cameron Smith will become equal most capped Storm player in the club’s history, joining Matt Geyer on 262 games.
- Billy Slater scored four tries against the Sea Eagles in a Qualifying Final between the two sides in 2009.
- Melbourne Storm suffered it’s biggest loss to Manly in 2008 when they were beaten 0-40.