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u : Digital Image by Robb Cox ©  :NRL Rugby League - St George Illawarra Dragons V Melbourne Storm at Jubilee Oval, Kogarah. Monday March 9th 2015.

The Dragons spent 2015 surprising many pre-season doubters on their way to their first finals berth in five years.

As Storm prepare to host Paul McGregor’s men in at AAMI Park for Round 1, we take a close look at everything you need to know about the opposition.

Turning defence into attack
The secret to the Dragons success last season was on the back of their defence which was ranked fourth in the NRL. It was their attack (15th) which needed improvement and based on their trial form in recent weeks that seems to be addressed.
Putting 46 points on the Warriors on their own turf a few weeks ago is evidence to suggest it will be a very different Dragons side coming to Melbourne this week than the one that managed just two tries in as many games against Storm last season.

Well balanced
The recruitment of Tim Lafai from the Bulldogs in the off-season has ensured the Dragons are not overly reliant on Josh Dugan’s edge. With skipper Gareth Widdop, Benji Marshall and Mitch Rein directing traffic while Dugan and Lafai provide an ever-present danger on either side of the field, the Red V look well-balanced outfit heading into Monday night.

Familiar Mann in a different role
Storm fans will be familiar the Kurt Mann who spent the past two season running around AAMI Park in the No.3 jersey. The 23-year-old also spent time at five-eighth and hooker with Storm’s feeder teams last year but will now get the opportunity to hold down the fullback spot at the Dragons in 2016.
From all reports Mann has performed well in the position over pre-season and in the trial matches which makes his return to AAMI Park, the ground where he made his debut, all the more intriguing for Storm fans.

Kiwi battle could be the difference
With Russell Packer back in the NRL and joining Leeson Ah Mau in the Dragons front row, the battle of the big men will be a crucial one come Monday night. Jesse Bromwich will look to continue proving his worth for Storm as the NRL’s premiere big man.
Both sides have key playmakers however their creativity will count for little unless their bigger teammates can provide the ascendancy up the middle.

Acknowledgement of Country

Melbourne Storm respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.