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Hostilities reignite as the Storm head to Lottoland
As the two sides that defined the past decade, the Sea Eagles and Storm will resume their rivalry once again on Saturday afternoon. Forced to reevaluate their standing after a convincing loss to the Dragons last week, the Sea Eagles will be hoping to recapture the form that saw them string together three straight wins heading into last week. Receiving mixed news on the injury front, rejuvenated winger Akuila Uate is set to take his place after being a late withdrawal last week, while highly regarded props Martin Taupau and Nate Myles will miss the fixture through injury. In their place, Addin Fonua-Blake has been named to start in the front row, while former Bulldogs Lloyd Perrett will play his first game since the opening round loss to Parramatta. With the leger between the pair tied at three wins and a draw apiece dating back to 2016, five-eighth Blake Green will be hoping to cap his 100th NRL appearance with a win over his former club.
Suffering a tightly fought loss against their Grand Final foes last Sunday, the Storm head to Lottoland with their eyes set on making immediate amends. Punished due to poor ball control in their 11-2 loss to Cronulla, coach Craig Bellamy will be stressing the importance of building pressure through high completions, while also capitalising on opportunities in attacking positions. In the only major change from last week, Will Chambers will miss the match through suspension, allowing Young Tounamaipea to retain his place in the centres alongside the returning Cheyse Blair. While initially named outside of the 17-man squad, influential pair Cameron Munster and Jesse Bromwich may be late inclusions for the Storm depending on their ability to make successful returns from injury.
Who to watch: Coming to prominence for his role in one of the most visceral moments of the Manly-Melbourne rivalry, Sea Eagles prop Darcy Lussick has proven his worth as more than a moment of infamy. Returning from injury in the loss to the Dragons last Saturday, the 27-year-old will have his sights set firmly on working his way back into the starting side after a breakout year in 2016, while providing plenty of punch off the bench. With the Sea Eagles recruiting to strengthen their forward pack over the off-season, look for Lussick to flourish in the new-look pack and help the side break back into the finals for the first time since 2014.
Underrated for much of his career, Melbourne lock Dale Finucane will be hopeful that 2017 proves to be the turning point of his time in the NRL. Debuting for the Bulldogs back in 2012, the 25-year-old has already featured in three grand finals and represented Country, while also recently penning a new four-year deal to remain in Melbourne despite keen interest from rival clubs. Tireless in defence and equally adept at causing havoc for opponents, Finucane will be hoping to capitalise upon Paul Gallen's retirement from representative football and achieve the honours befitting a player of his ability. Filling the role left by Ryan Hinchcliffe and Dallas Johnson before him, his role within the Storm system may not be as glamorous as the likes of Billy Slater, but as the cornerstone of the sides defensive line it is equally important in helping Melbourne sit atop the premiership ladder.
The favourite: Despite going down last Sunday, the Storm remain favourites to take out the two points at Lottoland.
My tip: In some respects a loss can be just as effective as a win. Having started the season in stunning fashion, last week's loss may well prove to be the reminder the Storm need to keep improving. Storm by 12.
1. Tom Trbojevic 2. Jorge Taufua 3. Dylan Walker 4. Brian Kelly 5. Akuila Uate 6. Blake Green 7. Daly Cherry-Evans 8. Brenton Lawrence 9. Apisai Koroisau 10. Addin Fonua-blake 11. Frank Winterstein 12. Curtis Sironen 13. Jake Trbojevic 14. Lewis Brown 15. Jackson Hastings 16. Darcy Lussick 17. Lloyd Perrett
1. Billy Slater 2. Suliasi Vunivalu 3. Young Tonumaipea 4. Cheyse Blair 5. Josh Addo-Carr 6. Ryley Jacks 7. Cooper Cronk 21. Jesse Bromwich 9. Cameron Smith 10. Jordan McLean 11. Felise Kaufusi 12. Kenneath Bromwich 13. Dale Finucane 8. Tim Glasby 14. Christian Welch 16. Nelson Asofa-Solomona 20. Cameron Munster