Canterbury v Melbourne preview

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Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs v Melbourne Storm Saturday 5:30pm at Stadium Australia

Canterbury face up to the Melbourne Storm on Saturday evening, in what is shaping to be one of the biggest mis-matches in NRL history.

Forgive me for referring to the betting, especially so early in this preview, however this is telling. The Bulldogs are paying $13 to win, in a two horse race, and you'll barely get a return ($1.03) if you decide to put your hard earned on the Melbourne Storm.

So how did we get here? Well the best way to put it is this: Canterbury haven't scored a point in the last 3 weeks. Storm fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen scored 4 tries in 11 minutes last weekend in a 40-6 mauling of the Broncos, a team that Canterbury lost 24-0 to the week prior, making them look like the Harlem Globetrotters in the process.

If this game plays out to the form line, and true to the current trend of blowout scores, this one could get ugly really quickly. This Bulldogs tragic hopes that the damage can be limited and some sort of improvement in attack, defence, and effort in general is shown this week. Hey, I can dream.

In team news, Melbourne welcome back Felise Kaufusi from suspension, and a return to the 21-man squad for Harry Grant and Brenko Lee may indicate there may be some last minute changes to the final 17. Regardless of the final lineup, this match has mis-matches across the park. There's a good reason most of the Canterbury squad is coming off-contract this year.

As was the case last week, a raft of changes for the Bulldogs:

  • Luke Thompson plays his first game of 2021, returning from suspension and slotting in at prop
  • Dallin Watene-Zelezniak also returns from suspension, and takes the number 1 jumper, replacing the injured Nick Meaney.
  • Josh Jackson is also back from suspension, straight into the starting lineup at lock.
  • Jake Averillo returns as five-eighth, replacing Lachlan Lewis who barely lasted a few minutes last week.
  • Nick Cotric finally selected on the wing, where he belongs, Corey Allan moves to the centres, as he continues to play positional musical chairs.
  • Dylan Napa moves to the bench (and hopefully NSW Cup next week), while Dean Britt and Joe Stimson move out of the 17.

It is only Round 5, and Trent Barrett needs to see what he can get out of the cattle available to him. Whilst chopping and changing isn't ideal, it's also necessary at this point, to assess this bare-bones squad. As they say, it is what it is.

Melbourne, on the other hand, will be looking to get their for and against up to the level of the current teams sitting above them on the ladder, as they make their move towards their rightful place at the top. 

Bizzarely, this will be the first time that Canterbury have met Melbourne at Stadium Australia since 2013, and even then, this match was meant to be played in Perth.

Last meeting: Round 13 2020 - Storm 41 Bulldogs 10

Who to watch: For Canterbury, I'll be keeping the closest eye on Luke Thompson's return, which may give the Bulldogs that "something" that Dylan Napa has not been providing. In addition, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak at fullback will be intriguing. It's a chance for him to return to form in his natural position.

Who to watch for the Storm? All of them, they are an absolute pleasure to watch. OK fine, of most interest will be watching Reimis Smith up against his old club, and Josh Addo-Carr against his soon to be new club. 

The favourite: As mentioned. Melbourne $1.03. Owch.

My tip: Can we not? FINE. Melbourne by 30.

1. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak 2. Nick Cotric 3. Will Hopoate 4. Corey Allan 5. Tuipulotu Katoa 6. Jake Averillo 7. Kyle Flanagan 16. Dylan Napa 9. Sione Katoa 10. Jack Hetherington 11. Adam Elliott 12. Corey Waddell 13. Josh Jackson 8. Luke Thompson 14. Jackson Topine 15. Renouf Atoni 17. Ofahiki Ogden 19. Brandon Wakeham

1. Ryan Papenhuyzen 2. George Jennings 3. Reimis Smith 4. Justin Olam 5. Josh Addo-Carr 6. Cameron Munster 7. Jahrome Hughes 8. Jesse Bromwich 9. Brandon Smith 10. Christian Welch 11. Felise Kaufusi 12. Kenneath Bromwich 15. Tui Kamikamica 13. Nelson Asofa-Solomona 16. Tom Eisenhuth 17. Nicholas Hynes 21. Harry Grant 14. Chris Lewis

Referees: Chris Sutton; Sideline Officials: Jon Stone, Darian Furner;

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