The NSW Blues have been named for the first game of the 2017 #Origin series.
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Melbourne Storm will go into Saturday night?s match against the Newcastle Knights without centre Ben MacDougall, who will miss the next two matches after taking an early guilty plea to a grade one dropping knees charge today.
MacDougall ? who scored the match-winning try in the Storm?s four point victory over the Raiders at Olympic Park last week - will spend the next two weeks on the sidelines after taking an early plea for the charge of dropping his knees into Raiders winger Joel Monaghan.
Melbourne skipper Stephen Kearney also took an early guilty plea to a grade two careless high tackle charge on Canberra?s Terry Martin, but has escaped suspension and will join his teammates this week as the Storm looks to claim its first ever win in Newcastle.
MacDougall escaped suspension last week after having a dangerous throw charge downgraded, but the accrued 93 carry-over points has left him with a two match ban, rather than the one week suspension on offer for an early plea.
Storm coach Craig Bellamy has named Melbourne-born outside back Jake Webster as MacDougall?s replacement, but admits the loss of the former Manly three-quarter is untimely.
?We?ll miss him because he?s been going great for us but with the charge he had, we thought it was a bit dangerous to take it on,? Bellamy explained.
?Jake has been playing in the centres up with (feeder club Brisbane) Norths and has been going quite well, so we?ve decided to put him in there to cover MacDougall.?
But according to Bellamy the successful return of Smith and Slater may well lead to the departure of Cronk and Turner.
?Those three are all an option at this stage but we?ll just have to see what happens after tomorrow night?s Origin match,? Bellamy added.
?The team might change but at this early stage we have to wait and see how our guys in Origin pull up. Being in the same situation, Newcastle?s team could change a bit as well.?
Aside from MacDougall, hooker Nathan Friend is the only casualty from last week?s line up.
In order to win this week, the Storm will have to overcome a hoodoo at EnergyAustralia Stadium, where it has not won in six previous attempts.
?It?s certainly a tough place to win but what ever has happened in the past is in the past, this week is a whole new game,? Bellamy said.
MELBOURNE STORM TEAM TO PLAY THE NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS, SATURDAY MAY 29, AT ENERGYAUSTRALIA STADIUM (7.30PM):
1. Billy Slater 2. Matt Geyer 3. Steven Bell 4. Jake Webster 5. Dustin Cooper 6. Scott Hill 7. Matt Orford 8. Robbie Kearns 9. Cameron Smith 10. Alex Chan 11. David Kidwell 12. Stephen Kearney (c) 13. Kirk Reynoldson
For further information contact James Avery: Phone (03) 9421 3222 Mobile: 0411 623 024 [email protected]