Check out the five key things you need to know for our season opener against the Bulldogs:
Five new faces
It seems almost unbelievable that the reigning Premier will head into the first game of the new season with five fresh faces in the line-up. That is precisely what will happen when Melbourne Storm run out to face the Bulldogs on Saturday night. Ryley Jacks, Brodie Croft and Ryan Hoffman are the three new faces named in the starting side while another two players will be on the bench who did not play in last year’s Grand Final. It is a significant change and will be fascinating to see how these combinations come together.
Young halves pairing
And so a new era in the Storm halves begins. Brodie Croft and Ryley Jacks will enter the season opener with a combined 17 NRL games between them. Their lack of experience does little to tell the true story of their credentials. Both playmakers have shown tremendous poise when thrown into the fire of first grade so far in their careers. Now they have the freedom to stamp their own mark on this team, starting with taking the reigns on Saturday night.
Perth to experience a Storm
It is always an exciting opportunity when Melbourne gets a chance to take the Storm brand of football around the country. For the sixth time in the Club’s history the purple jersey will step out in Perth. This time it will be part of the Perth Double Header that will also see the Warriors and Rabbitohs lock horns in the earlier game. Melbourne has a mixed record across the Nullarbor, having won three from their five previous visits.
Keeping the Round 1 record in tact
You have to go back to 2001 for the last time Melbourne Storm have lost a Round 1 game. In fact the only season opener they have lost in that time was against the Knights in 2004, which was a Round 2 game due to a first week bye. That means Craig Bellamy’s men have started the last 13 consecutive seasons with a 1-0 record. It is an impressive stat and one Storm fans will be hoping continues for another year at least.
New Bulldogs era
Beware the unknown. The Bulldogs are an intriguing prospect heading into Round 1 with plenty of fresh hope. New coach Dean Pay is leading a rejuvenated squad that includes boom recruits Aaron Woods and Kieran Foran. Pay was in fact a former Under-20s coach at the Melbourne Storm. The Bulldogs have also implemented a positional switch with Moses Mbye named at fullback with Will Hopoate shifting to the centres in a re-jig from last season.