Wests Tigers v Sea Eagles preview
3 hours ago | Tim Costello
Trans-Tasman rivals look to bounce back on ANZAC Day
Suffering their first loss of the season in an epic grand final rematch last Friday, the Melbourne Storm will be out to maintain a run of dominance against the New Zealand Warriors on ANZAC Day.
Fighting back from a 20-point deficit just before halftime against the Sydney Roosters, only to fall foul of Latrell Mitchell's monstrous left boot in the 21-20 golden-point loss at home, Storm coach Craig Bellamy will be looking to rectify the shortcomings of last week in order to regain the outright competition lead.
Hosting the Warriors on ANZAC Day for the tenth time since the fixture became tradition in 2009, the Storm have dominated proceedings with six wins and a draw, including last year's 50-10 massacre at AAMI Park.
Naming a similar squad to the side beaten by the Roosters, Marion Seve replaces Ryan Papenhuyzen on the bench in the only change from last week.
Remaining in tenth position after enduring a fourth loss from their opening six matches, the New Zealand Warriors will need to reverse a poor record against Melbourne having lost their past six clashes by a combined margin of 171-54.
Coming off a 17-10 loss to the North Queensland Cowboys in Auckland last Saturday, the Warriors will be out to record a rare win at AAMI Park having managed three wins from nine meetings at the venue - their last coming five years ago under the guidance of Andrew McFadden.
Starting 2019 in stark contrast to the form that saw them rated as premiership dark horses twelve months ago, coach Stephen Kearney will be hoping history repeats on Thursday night following an identical situation faced by the club in 2011. Coming into the ANZAC Day clash eight years ago with a similar 2/6 record, the Warriors upset the Storm 18-14 to pave the way for a run through to their second grand final appearance.
Losing David Fusitua with a rib issue sustained against the Cowboys, utility back Gerard Beale moves to the wing as part of a backline reshuffle that sees Blake Green return at halfback after missing the past fortnight with a groin injury.
Last meeting: Round 19 2018 - Warriors 6 Storm 12
Who to watch: Making a try-scoring return against the Roosters last Friday, Melbourne centre Curtis Scott will be looking to continue his strong start to the season in order to remind representative selectors of his talents on the big stage. Winning a premiership with the Storm while still a teenager, the 21-year-old Southerland Shire junior has proven himself to be a fierce competitor - sometimes to a physical extent as Dylan Walker can profess - while providing strong service to help his forwards during times of trouble. With James Roberts' position at right centre potentially up in the air, along with Tom Trbojevic declaring himself out of contention for Origin I, expect Scott to make a statement with his on-field actions to ensure Brad Fittler takes notice of the potent speedster.
Facing off against the club that revived his NRL career four years ago, Warriors playmaker Blake Green will be out to make up for lost time in his return from a groin injury. Missing the past fortnight after being struck down in the warm-up on the Sunshine Coast, the 32-year-old journeyman will provide a steadying hand for rookie five-eighth Chanel Harris-Tavita, while enabling captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck additional space to dazzle opponents with the best footwork in rugby league worldwide. With the Warriors coming up short twice in his absence, look for Green to provide the side with a surge of confidence as they chase their first win against Melbourne since 2015.
Editor's note: when each club updated their lineups on Wednesday, after this preview was written - both Scott and Green were among the players omitted. Tuivasa-Sheck will also miss Thursday's clash.
The favourite: Coming into the match off the back of five wins from their first six matches, the Storm are expected to avoid recording consecutive losses at AAMI Park for the first time since mid-2015.
My tip: While the return of Blake Green should see the Warriors put up a strong showing in the Victorian capital, the Storm should prove too strong at home. Storm by 16.
1. Jahrome Hughes 2. Suliasi Vunivalu 3. Will Chambers 17. Marion Seve 5. Josh Addo-Carr 6. Cameron Munster 7. Brodie Croft 8. Jesse Bromwich 9. Cameron Smith 15. Christian Welch 11. Felise Kaufusi 12. Kenneath Bromwich 13. Dale Finucane 10. Nelson Asofa-Solomona 14. Brandon Smith 16. Tui Kamikamica 21. Ryan Papenhuyzen
3. Peta Hiku 2. Gerard Beale 22. Blake Ayshford 21. Patrick Herbert 5. Ken Maumalo 6. Chanel Harris-tavita 12. Tohu Harris 8. Agnatius Paasi 9. Issac Luke 10. Leeson Ah Mau 11. Adam Blair 15. Isaiah Papalii 13. Lachlan Burr 14. Jazz Tevaga 16. Bunty Afoa 17. Nathaniel Roache 18. Hayze Perham
Referees: Matt Cecchin, David Munro; Sideline Officials: Liam Kennedy, Nick Morel; Video Referees: Jared Maxwell, Bryan Norrie;