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The Newcastle Knights are a top-eight team for the first time in a long time, but have they got what it takes to stop the Storm?

Melbourne have dominated this match-up traditionally and in the past five years in particular; the Knights haven't beaten the Storm since 2015. Last year it was a 34-4 demolition at AAMI Park and in June Melbourne prevailed 26-12 in Newcastle's makeshift home of Central Coast Stadium.

And there's no sign things will get much easier for the men in red and blue this week. Melbourne are in red-hot form – since losing to league leaders Penrith in round six they've reeled off five straight wins, including victories over both last year's grand finalists and three games in which they've scored more than 40 points.

Last week they recovered from a poor first half to pile on 46 against Brisbane.

But the Knights have reason to be quietly confident themselves. Their defence is looking much improved this season – conceding more than 20 points just twice since the season resumed in round two (including that loss to Melbourne).

Attacking weapons Kalyn Ponga and Bradman Best both found form in recent weeks after a lean few rounds. And coach Adam O'Brien knows the Storm back to front after spending 11 years as an assistant coach at the club.

The Rundown

Team news

Storm: Prop Jesse Bromwich (No.21) is a confirmed starter for the Storm after overcoming an MCL injury. He will start the match, with Nelson Asofa-Solomona dropping back to the bench. In the other late change, centre Justin Olam is out, with Tom Eisenhuth named to start in the centres. Olam and Darryn Schonig were the last two players dropped from the squad.

Marion Seve replaces Brenko Lee (broken hand) at centre. Tom Eisenhuth returns from a hamstring injury on the bench in place of Paul Momirovski (finger). Albert Vete and Ryley Jacks were omitted from the extended bench 24 hours before kick-off. 

Knights: The Knights will start 1-17 after Tex Hoy and Jirah Momisea were the two players left out an hour before kick-off. Chris Randall comes in at hooker for his second NRL game following season-ending injuries to Andrew McCullough and Connor Watson. Sione Mata'utia (syndesmosis) is also out with Aidan Guerra starting in the back row.

Phoenix Crossland and Josh King join the interchange. Mason Lino and Matt Croker dropped off the reserves on Saturday. Only seven Knights players have achieved an NRL victory over the Storm.

Team Lists

Backs

  • Fullback for Storm is number 1 Ryan Papenhuyzen
    Fullback for Knights is number 1 Kalyn Ponga
  • Winger for Storm is number 2 Suliasi Vunivalu
    Winger for Knights is number 2 Enari Tuala
  • Centre for Storm is number 3 Marion Seve
    Centre for Knights is number 3 Tautau Moga
  • Centre for Storm is number 17 Tom Eisenhuth
    Centre for Knights is number 4 Bradman Best
  • Winger for Storm is number 5 Josh Addo-Carr
    Winger for Knights is number 5 Hymel Hunt
  • Five-Eighth for Storm is number 6 Cameron Munster
    Five-Eighth for Knights is number 6 Kurt Mann
  • Halfback for Storm is number 7 Jahrome Hughes
    Halfback for Knights is number 7 Mitchell Pearce

Forwards

  • Prop for Storm is number 10 Christian Welch
    Prop for Knights is number 8 David Klemmer
  • Hooker for Storm is number 9 Cameron Smith
    Hooker for Knights is number 9 Chris Randall
  • Prop for Storm is number 21 Jesse Bromwich
    Prop for Knights is number 10 Jacob Saifiti
  • 2nd Row for Storm is number 11 Felise Kaufusi
    2nd Row for Knights is number 11 Lachlan Fitzgibbon
  • 2nd Row for Storm is number 12 Kenneath Bromwich
    2nd Row for Knights is number 12 Aidan Guerra
  • Lock for Storm is number 13 Dale Finucane
    Lock for Knights is number 13 Mitchell Barnett

Interchange

  • Interchange for Storm is number 8 Nelson Asofa-Solomona
    Interchange for Knights is number 14 Phoenix Crossland
  • Interchange for Storm is number 14 Brandon Smith
    Interchange for Knights is number 15 Josh King
  • Interchange for Storm is number 15 Tino Faasuamaleaui
    Interchange for Knights is number 16 Pasami Saulo
  • Interchange for Storm is number 19 Nicho Hynes
    Interchange for Knights is number 17 Herman Ese'ese

Match Officials

  • Referee: Adam Gee
  • Touch Judge: Dave Munro
  • Touch Judge: Todd Smith
  • Video Referee: Ben Galea
  • Senior Review Official: Ashley Klein

Last updated:

Key match-up

Ryan Papenhuyzen v Kalyn Ponga. Two of the most electrifying fullbacks in rugby league go head-to-head this week, with Papenhuyzen fresh from a second-half bonanza against Brisbane and Ponga the man Newcastle will rely on if they are to keep it close against Melbourne.

This pair are renowned for their speed and footwork but are also under-rated playmakers. If Ponga has an off game it's hard to see the Knights winning; if Papenhuyzen has a big one it's hard to see Melbourne losing.

Stat Attack

Melbourne skipper Cameron Smith hit the top of the goal-kicking leaderboard for 2020 at the end of last week's win over Brisbane and also brought up 2700 career points, the first player ever to reach that milestone.