PANTHER PRIDE | A big win for the mountain men tonight has them firmly entrenched in the top eight, ...
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Melbourne Storm will field a different look side when Friday night football returns to Olympic Park for the first time in four years this week, as the Storm hosts reigning premiers the Penrith Panthers.
Not since Round 25 of the 2000 season has Olympic Park staged Friday night NRL football, but this week will see the fifth-placed Storm attempt to knock the third-placed Panthers out of the top four.
However State of Origin commitments and suspension have forced changes to the Storm side this week, with Billy Slater and Cameron Smith in camp with the Queensland Origin side and forward Dallas Johnson missing due to suspension.
Johnson will spend the next three weeks on the sidelines after today entering an early guilty plea for a grade two dangerous throw charge on Warriors? halfback Stacey Jones last week.
The base penalty for the charge on Johnson was exacerbated by a recent prior offence of the same nature ? the 22-year-old was outed for one match last year for the same charge ? leading to the three-week ban.
Ryan Hoffman comes into the side to cover the loss of Johnson ? who started at lock for Melbourne last week ? and Steve Turner will hold down fullback in Slater?s absence, while Nathan Friend takes over as hooker following Smith?s departure.
Utility Cooper Cronk and Kiwi forward Glen Turner have also been added to the Storm?s 19-man squad for the clash with the Panthers.
Winger Matt Geyer ? who will this week overtake former teammate Marcus Bai as the most capped player in the club?s history - believes the forced changes won?t affect the Storm?s continuity after the success of last week?s 24-point win over the Warriors.
?Obviously the potential is there to disrupt the team because you?ve got three players out of the side who have been involved in just about every game this year,? Geyer said.
?But in saying that, I think what we have been renowned for down here in recent years has been having someone that can step into a gap that?s been left by another player and I think that?s exactly what?s going to happen this week.
?It is something that will effect both teams on Friday night and the guys coming into the side for us will step right up and perform just as well as the guys they?ve replaced.?
Fresh from his hat-trick against the Warriors Matt King will again line-up on the wing for Melbourne this week while Dustin Cooper has been named on the Storm?s extended bench.
Meanwhile ?Popstars Live? winner Kayne Taylor will perform three songs at the Storm Vs Panthers clash this Friday night. Taylor will also be on hand to sign copies of his newly released single.
MELBOURNE STORM TEAM TO PLAY THE PENRITH PANTHERS, FRIDAY JULY 2, AT OLYMPIC PARK (7.30PM):
1. Steve Turner 2. Matt Geyer 3. Steven Bell 4. Ben MacDougall 5. Matt King 6. Scott Hill 7. Matt Orford 8. Robbie Kearns 9. Nathan Friend 10. Alex Chan 11. David Kidwell 12. Stephen Kearney (c) 13. Kirk Reynoldson 14. Danny Williams 15. Ryan Hoffman 16. Dustin Cooper 17. Rodney Howe 18. Cooper Cronk 19. Glen Turner