While the 2018 #NRL Pre-Season is still a few weeks away, there's a bunch of warm-up clashes happeni...
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Experience on the sidelines as competition leaders aim to skittle also-rans
The big story here should be the Storm taking a home game away from Melbourne and the Titans battling to move up the competition table. While those narratives will certainly play out come 5:30pm Saturday, the focal point will be two men sitting in the Suncorp dugouts - Melbourne's Jesse Bromwich and Titans' (now former co-captain) Kevin Proctor.
This pair were stupid enough to be caught buying a prohibited substance after playing together in the New Zealand Kiwis test against Australia in Canberra. The punishments have been swift and in some eyes light, with Bromwich (2 weeks) and Proctor (4 weeks) getting off relatively lightly from their respective clubs in terms of suspension, although both have been banned from the World Cup for the Kiwis at the end of the season.
Despite their flashy table position, this won't be a walk in the park for the Storm. In addition to Bromwich being absent, they're also missing Nelson Asofa-Solomona and Christian Welch. Tohu Harris has been slowly making his way back from injury and will return in a welcome sight for the Storm, but their work remains cut out for them without three mainstays of their pack. The Gold Coast meanwhile seem to be on the way back from their horror early season run of injuries.
These sides have met on 16 occasions since 2007, with the Storm holding a comfortable 11 to 5 advantage. It's the first time the pair have faced off at Suncorp, however.
Who to watch: With the forward stocks depleted, the Storm will no doubt be relying on the class of their spine to get them a win on Saturday. Cameron Smith has been in vintage form this season, and with a fully fit Slater & Munster together with Cooper Cronk in his final Storm season, the 1-6-7-9 are all quality - and will be the men who keep the Storm four clear at the top if that's how this one turns out.
Jarryd Hayne's return has been slow and steady but has brought something extra to the NRL's newest club in recent weeks. He's staying in the centres this week, and will be tasked with shutting down Maroon and Kangaroo livewire Will Chambers on the edges. Watch for him to play in a few roles across the evening as the Titans look to do the improbably and upset the competition leaders, though.
1. Billy Slater 2. Suliasi Vunivalu 3. William Chambers 4. Cheyse Blair 5. Josh Addo-Carr 6. Cameron Munster 7. Cooper Cronk 8. Tim Glasby 9. Cameron Smith 10. Jordan McLean 11. Felise Kaufusi 16. Tohu Harris 13. Dale Finucane 14. Mark Nicholls 15. Joe Stimson 12. Kenneath Bromwich 18. Tui Kamikamica
1. Tyrone Roberts 2. Anthony Don 3. Jarryd Hayne 4. Konrad Hurrell 5. Dan Sarginson 6. Kane Elgey 7. Ashley Taylor 8. Jarrod Wallace 9. Nathan Peats 10. Ryan James 11. Chris McQueen 12. Joe Greenwood 13. Ryan Simpkins 14. Dale Copley 15. Morgan Boyle 16. Paterika Vaivai 17. Leivaha Pulu