Melbourne Begin Premiership Defence

Image courtesy of heraldsun.com.au, Picture:Colleen Petch
Gareth Widdop gets first crack at the number 6 jersey this season. Picture: Colleen Petch/heraldsun.com.au
Last 5 Meetings

Round 21 2012 – St George Illawarra Dragons 26 d Melbourne Storm 18 at WIN Stadium
Round 24 2011 – Melbourne Storm 8 d St George Illawarra Dragons 6 at AAMI Park
Round 4 2010 – Melbourne Storm 17 d St George Illawarra Dragons 4 at Etihad Stadium
Round 21 2009 – St George Illawarra Dragons 26 d Melbourne Storm 12 at WIN Jubilee Oval
Round 1 2009 – Melbourne Storm 17 d St George Illawarra Dragons 16 at Olympic Park

The Melbourne Storm will be bidding to become the fourth straight premiership winning side to begin their title defence with a win when they face the St George Illawarra Dragons  at AAMI Park on Sunday. Just ten players from the 17 man squad that defeated Canterbury 14-4 in the decider will line up for Melbourne however, although ‘the big three’ are all there. There are two new faces for NRL fans to get familiar with for the Storm, with Tohu Harris and Lagi Setu both set to make their NRL debuts for the club, the latter returning to the competition after completing a two year religious mission. Grand final winning five-eight Gareth Widdop retains his place in the starting side despite the return on Brett Finch to the club.

The retirement of former skipper Ben Hornby has opened up a position in the halves alongside Jamie Soward at the Dragons and journeyman Nathan Fien has been given first crack at the spot. Mitch Rein has been handed the number nine jersey following the retirement of Dean Young, while the loss of Beau Scott has been covered by the recruitment of Tyson Frizell. The return of prop forward Michael Henderson means that New South Wales representative Trent Merrin has been moved to lock, while former Broncos flyer Gerard Beale will start the season at fullback.

1st Tryscorer – Kiwi flyer Matt Duffie  had an interrupted season in 2012 due to injuries but still managed to score 10 tries from limited opportunities. Powerful centre Will Chambers is likely to make plenty of space for him out wide and Duffie will capitalise on any opportunity that he gets.

The Dragons struggled to score points last season but one player that still managed to get across the try line plenty of times was Brett Morris , who was easily the teams most prolific tryscorer after collecting 14 four pointers from 23 appearances.

Prediction – Although this would have been viewed as a blockbuster round one matchup twelve months ago, it is hard now to imagine that the Dragons will be able to measure up against the Storm. They haven’t won in Melbourne since 1999 and that is unlikely to change here. Melbourne Storm 13+

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