St. George Illawarra v Melbourne Storm
Monday 9 March, 7pm
WIN Jubilee Oval
TV: Fox Sports – live from 7pm
Online: NRL Digital Pass
Radio: Triple M NRL
After long pre-season slogs the football finally begins on Monday night when Melbourne meet St. George Illawarra at Kogarah's WIN Jubilee Oval.
Storm received an early boost on Team List Tuesday with Captain Cameron Smith named at hooker. However Craig Bellamy declared his number nine no certain starter explaining his number nine would have to "complete all of the sessions this week" if he is to face the Dragons.
With the departures of Ryan Hoffman, Ben Roberts, Sisa Waqa and Bryan Norrie from Melbourne's regular starting 17 in 2014, Storm enters the new season with a number of fresh combinations. Blake Green has been named at five-eighth to make his Club debut and partner Cooper Cronk in the halves while Tohu Harris graduates into Hoffman's traditional second-row position. Like Green, off-season recruit and former Bulldog Dale Finucane will make his Storm debut, securing a starting lock position.
Bellamy's side also features plenty of youth for the Dragons match-up, including a debutant. Youngsters Kurt Mann and Young Tonumaipea have earned positions in the outside back ranks while 22-year old forward Felise Kaufusi has been named on the interchange bench to make his first-grade debut.
For the Dragons former Storm Premiership Player Dane Nielsen and forward George Rose will play their first matches in the Red V. Rose enters the clash coming off a man of the match performance for the Indigenous All Stars on the Gold Coast in February. Rookies Rory O'Brien and Eto Nabuli will also make their first-grade debuts for Paul McGregor's side.
Storm hold a strong record in Round 1 matches over previous seasons. Last year's nail biting victory over the Sea Eagles in the 2014 season opener was Melbourne's 10th consecutive Round 1 victory.
Ryan Hinchcliffe will line-up for his 150 Storm game. The reliable forward has only missed six matches since his Storm debut in 2009.
Melbourne Storm: 1. Billy Slater, 2. Young Tonumaipea, 3. William Chambers, 4. Kurt Mann, 5. Marika Koroibete, 6. Blake Green, 7. Cooper Cronk, 8. Jesse Bromwich, 9. Cameron Smith (c), 10. Jordan McLean, 11. Kevin Proctor, 12. Tohu Harris, 13. Dale Finucane, 14. Ryan Hinchcliffe, 15. Tim Glasby, 16. Dayne Weston, 17. Felise Kaufusi
St. George Illawarra Dragons: 1. Josh Dugan, 2. Etonia Nabuli, 3. Dane Nielsen, 4. Dylan Farrell, 5. Jason Nightingale, 6. Gareth Widdop, 7. Benji Marshall, 8. Leeson Ah Mau, 9. Mitch Rein, 10. George Rose, 11. Tyson Frizell, 12. Joel Thompson, 13. Ben Creagh (c), 14. Rory O'Brien, 15. Trent Merrin, 16. Mike Cooper, 17. Jack de Belin, 18. Jake Marketo, 19. Heath L'Estrange
Storm: Melbourne Storm featured in three trial matches following the 2015 Auckland Nines, falling to the Canberra Raiders in Griffith before recording wins against Easts Tigers and the Canterbury Bulldogs.
Canberra Raiders 32 defeated Melbourne Storm 20 at E.W Moore Oval, Griffith
Tries: Young Tonumaipea 2, Richie Kennar 1, Tim Glasby 1; Goals: Shaun Nona 1, Cameron Munster 1
Melbourne Storm 44 defeated Easts Tigers 12 at Gosch's Paddock, Melbourne
Tries: Travis Robinson 1, Cameron Munster 1, Mahe Fonua 1, Billy Brittain 1, Joe Uluibau 1, Tom Murphy 1, Latrell Robinson 1, Richie Kennar 1; Goals: Shaun Nona 5, Joe Stimson 1
Melbourne Storm 32 defeated Canterbury Bulldogs 30 at AAMI Park, Melbourne
Tries: Marika Koroibete 2, Young Tonumaipea 1, Suliasi Vunivalu 1, Tohu Harris 1, Cameron Munster 1, Billy Slater 1; Goals: Cameron Munster 1, Shaun Nona 1
Dragons: Paul McGregor's side featured in two trial matches before heading to England to participate in the World Club Series where they finished the pre-season tasting victory over Super League outfit Warrington.
St. George Illawarra Dragons 14 defeated Mackay Cutters 12 at Mackay Stadium, Mackay
Tries: Nielsen, McCarthy, Vai Vai; Goals: Hutchison 1
St. George Illawarra Dragons 12 drew with South Sydney Rabbitohs 12, at ANZ Stadium (Charity Shield)
Tries: Marshall, Runicman; Goals: Widdop 2
St. George Illawarra Dragons 18 defeated Warrington Wolves 12 at The Halliwell Jones Stadium, Warrington
Tries: Frizell 1, Thompson 1, Dugan 1; Goals: Widdop 3
Referee – Adam Devcich, David Munro
Sideline Officials – Rick McFarlane, Chris Sutton
Video Referees – Steve Chiddy, Luke Phillips
HEAD TO HEAD:
St. George Illawarra: 8
St. George Illawarra: 1
LAST TIME THEY MET:
Round 16, 2014 – St. George Illawarra 24 (Tries: J.Dugan, J.Nightingale, M.Rein, C.Runciman, G.Widdop; Goals: G.Widdop 2) defeated Melbourne Storm 12 (Tries: K.Mann, B.Slater; Goals: C.Smith 2)