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STORM BLOOD ANOTHER ROOKIE:
The Storm will blood its sixth rookie of the season today when Antonio Kaufusi takes his place in the Melbourne line-up.
Kaufusi has spent the past season with feeder club Brisbane Norths and will come off the bench while Kirk Reynoldson starts for the suspended Mitchell Sargent.
ANTONIO KAUFUSI Age: 18 Position: Second row Ht/Wt: 190cm/108kg Place of Birth: Tonga Rep Sides: QLD 17s, QLD 19s
Kaufusi is the sixth rookie to debut for Melbourne this year the following players have all made their NRL debut for the Storm this season:
Billy Slater Dallas Johnson Ryan Hoffman Dustin Cooper Nathan Sologinkin
The following players had a combined total of just 11 games between them before this season:
Cameron Smith (2 games) Nathan Friend (1) Semi Tadulala (4) Glen Turner (3) Robert Tanielu (1)
MELBOURNE 12-8 (6th) V BULLDOGS 13-7 (4th), Rd 22
THIS WEEK Who: Bulldogs When: 3.00pm, Sunday August 10 Where: Sydney Showground TV: Channel 9, 4.00pm Radio: 2GB ? around the grounds Last game: Storm beat New Zealand Warriors 14-12, Ericsson Stadium Top Try scorer: Billy Slater ? 15 tries Top Point scorer: Matt Orford ? 140 points (6 tries, 58 goals) Biggest Win: 46-6 v Knights, Rnd 8 Biggest Loss: 14-41 vs Souths, Rnd 13
2003 PRE-SEASON: 1-1 44-24 vs Souths, February 22 @ Ipswich 4-6 vs Canberra, March 1 @ Morwell
COMING UP: Rd 23 Eels, August 17 ? 3.00pm, Olympic Park Rd 24 Dragons, August 22 ? 7.30pm, WIN Stadium Rd 25 Bye
LAST TIME vs BULLDOGS:
Despite leading for 70 minutes the Storm lost their way in the final moments of the match enabling the Bulldogs to run out 26-12 winners.
Storm pivot Scott Hill injured his right shoulder as the Storm looked to lack experience in the absence of stalwart Robbie Kearns (out on NSW Origins duty).
For the Bulldogs Mark O?Meley was outstanding laying the perfect platform for his backline.
STORM HAMPERED BY JUDICIARY:
Storm and QLD hooker Cameron Smith along with prop Mitchell Sargent will both miss this week?s match after the NRL judiciary found them guilty of a dangerous throw on New Zealand?s Jerry Seu Seu.
Smith will be sidelined for one week while Sargent is set to miss two weeks. Bearded forward Kirk Reynoldson will cover Sargent in the front row and Nathan Friend will start in the hooking role for Smith.
Brisbane Norths forward Antonio Kaufusi (no relation to Mal) comes on to the bench courtesy of Reynoldson?s elevation to the starting line-up. See following profile.
THE DIFFERENCE IN DEFENCE: Melbourne?s defence this year has been streets ahead of previous seasons.
After two season?s of defensive mediocrity ? Melbourne leaked an average of more than 26 points per game over 2001 and 2002 ? the Storm now has one of the most effective defence?s in the NRL conceding an average of just over 12 points in its past six outings.
Club stalwart Robbie Kearns, along with suspended hooker Cameron Smith, has been the driving force behind the defensive overhaul.
Both Kearns and Smith are averaging over 30 tackles per game and along with Kirk Reynoldson ? who logged 35 tackles last week against the Warriors ? the Storm have an almost impregnable defensive backbone this year.
ORFORD?S KING STATS Matt Orford?s stellar season continues and the powerful halfback?s work rate is clearly evident.
Within the NRL the 25-year-old is currently:
- 5th (top pointscorers) - 4th (top goalkickers) - 1st (kicks in play) - 8th (line break assists) - 1st (long kicks) - 3rd (try assists)
SLATER?S STELLAR SEASON CONTINUES:
Rookie sensation Billy Slater continues to his remarkable debut season after picking up his fifth double of the year two week?s ago against Souths.
The 20-year-old former trackwork jockey has been a revelation for the Storm this year picking up 15 tries filling in at fullback in the absence of Robbie Ross.
A LONG TIME BETWEEN DRINKS:
If the Storm can manage a victory this week against the Bulldogs it will be the first time the 1999 premiers have beaten Canterbury since 2000.
Melbourne ran out convincing 44-22 victors in round 12 that year at Stadium Australia.
MARCUS HOPING TO SAY BYE ON A HIGH:
In his final season with the Storm before joining English Super League club Leeds, PNG flyer Marcus Bai is hoping to see a return to the NRL finals for the last time.
After announcing his imminent move abroad Bai has been on fire clocking up an average of 18 hitups for 183 metres in his past two matches.
At 30 years of age Bai is currently fourth on the NRL?s list of running metres gained (average of 145m per game).
He is the Storm?s all-time leading try scorer with 65 tries and holds the club record for games played (136 matches). LEAD AT HALFTIME AND WIN:
A halftime lead invariably means a win for the Storm in 2003.
So far this year the Melbourne holds a commanding 9-2 record when leading at halftime.
It was a similar scenario last season with the Storm mounting an 8-1-2 record when leading at halftime.
While Melbourne?s injury toll has not been as crippling in recent weeks, key members of the Storm squad remained sidelined with long-term injuries.
Melbourne has already used 30 players this year compared to 27 players used for the entire 2002 season and 26 players used in 2001.
MELBOURNE?S INJURY LIST:
Scott Hill ? shoulder (1-2 weeks) Andrew McFadden ? groin (2-3 weeks) Robbie Ross ? back (4-5 weeks) Rodney Howe ? knee (season) Jake Webster ? knee (season)
BEATING THE ROAD BLUES:
The Storm has set about overcoming its abysmal 2002 form on the road this season.
Melbourne is 5-5 on the road so far this year and has already bettered its 2-1-9 away record of last year.
A TRY A GAME:
The Storm has never been shut out to date, that?s at least one try in every game the team has played since 1998 ? that?s 152 NRL games in a row.