The Bulldogs are playing their Round 4 match in Perth. Image courtesy of www.heraldsun.com.au, Picture: Getty Images
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs v Melbourne Storm
Saturday, March 29 – 6.35pm AEST
nib Stadium, Perth
Things you need to know:
The Dogs' two-point loss to Penrith in round three has seen coach Des Hasler make one change to his starting 13, with Chase Stanley in for Drury Low on the wing. Low and Moses Mbye are part of a six-man bench that will be cut to four.
For the second week running, Storm coach Craig Bellamy has named an unchanged line-up, with prop Jordan McLean cleared to play. The 22-year-old had his tribunal hearing deferred for his involvement in the tackle that seriously injured Newcastle's Alex McKinnon on Monday night. McLean was stood down by the NRL pending the hearing, but NRL judiciary chairman Paul Conlon SC cleared him to play on Thursday morning. Matt Duffie (knee) and Travis Robinson (knee) remain on the outer for Melbourne.
Reason to watch:
Hasler v Bellamy. A couple of the game's recent greats were once used to squaring off at either Brookvale or in Melbourne, but their intriguing rivalry now heads west. Since Hasler joined Canterbury-Bankstown in 2012, the ledger sits 3-2 in favour of Bellamy's Storm, with one of those the 2012 grand final. However, Hasler's Dogs have the most recent triumph to their name, a 39-0 shellacking of the Storm, no less.
Reason to turn away:
There is no statistical backing to this claim, but the Storm could be tired. Two one-point thrillers in rounds one and two, and a testing encounter against the Knights is the lead-in for Bellamy's men for the three-hour trip to Perth off a five-day back-up. Throw in the fact skipper Cam Smith opted for the two points rather than push for a try in the early stages of their Knights clash - it was the biggest hint yet fatigue may be an issue for Melbourne. For the record, Storm are 6-2 off five-day breaks in the past two years, but they have never thrown a long flight into that equation in that period.
"Now we have to go to Perth next week and play against a pretty handy football team. It's going to be difficult with a five-hour flight to do that," Hasler said, following their loss to the Panthers.
It is hard to knock the Storm, with their champion trio Cam Smith, Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater in the side. Slater was relatively quiet last week, but playmakers Smith and Cronk were sublime. The Dogs put the Storm to the sword in their round 18 meeting last year, although Storm had none of their 'big three' involved. A positive for Hasler's side is they have not conceded more than 18 points in a game this season, and if their defence can hold up, then they are every chance of breaking Storm's winning run. Canterbury have enough star power to generate points via Josh Reynolds and Trent Hodkinson, and one would assume the Storm's left side of defence will be the primary target - something Newcastle exploited to effect on Monday. Melbourne's intense opening to the season might just catch up with them this week, and the Bulldogs should be hungry to erase the memory of their last-gasp loss to the Panthers. Bulldogs by two.
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