Melbourne Storm v New Zealand Warriors
Friday, March 10, 6pm (Melb time)
Mount Smart Stadium
TV: Fox League (Ch. 502) LIVE from 6pm
Head-to-Head: Storm 20, Warriors 16, Drawn 2
Last time we met: Round 8, 2016; Storm 42 def Warriors 0 at AAMI Park
Everything you need to know ahead of our Round 2 clash against the Warriors on Friday night!
1. RTS is back
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck made his long-awaited return to the NRL in Round 1 after injuring his ACL last season. The Warriors fullback was dominant in the win over the Knights, finishing with 251 metres, a line break and an assist. RTS wasted no time in picking up right were he left off and will be a significant weapon for an exciting Warriors attack already led by creative playmaker Shaun Johnson.
2. Next man up
There is no hiding from the fact that the loss of Jesse Bromwich is a significant one for Melbourne. The superstar prop will no make the trip to his homeland after dislocating his thumb in last week’s Round 1 victory. Tim Glasby is named as the man to take his place in the starting role. Craig Bellamy has also left himself with plenty of options, naming five forwards on an extended bench. It is likely to be all hands on deck for Storm in order to cover the monster minutes Bromwich plays. Felise Kaufusi is one who showed he is capable of stepping up, playing the full 80 minutes last week against the Bulldogs.
3. Five day break V Travel
What would you rather; a five day turnaround or 2,632 kilometres of travel? That is the interesting subplot leading into Friday night’s game. Melbourne boarded a flight on Wednesday to head across the ditch and will have two days to acclimatise themselves to the wet and windy Auckland conditions. For New Zealand, they get to remain at home for the second straight week but must back up off a five-day turnaround. That challenge is significant at any stage of the season but especially after Round 1 when soreness is amplified as the players’ bodies get re-acquainted to full-blown NRL contact. It will be interesting to see which preparation has the most effect on the respective teams.
4. New Warriors coach
Former Storm player and assistant coach Stephen Kearney is now at the helm of the Warriors having taken over as coach at the end of last season. Kearney is well accustomed to the Storm system having played 139 games for the Club as well as spending time coaching under Craig Bellamy. He has had outstanding success with the New Zealand national team. Under his watch the Kiwis won the 2008 World Cup as well as the 2010 and 2014 Four Nations. A hard-nosed coach who knows how to win will translate into a new-look Warriors outfit in 2017.
5. Beware the Hoff
It is still hard for Storm fans to see Ryan Hoffman running around in different colours and the veteran showed against the Knights in Round 1 he has certainly not lost his mojo. The 33-year-old ran for 131 metres and scored the game-winning try in the 73rd minute. Hoffman’s experience will prove to be a significant test for Storm’s right edge, especially if the game goes down to the wire.