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Melbourne Storm will be without Queensland hooker Cameron Smith for this Sunday?s clash with the Bulldogs at the Sydney Showgrounds, but the club is hopeful prop Mitchell Sargent will be available.
Smith will miss this week?s vital encounter after entering an early guilty plea for a grade one dangerous throw on New Zealand?s Jerry Seu Seu from last week?s two-point win over the Warriors.
However, in a bid to take his place in this week?s starting line-up, Sargent along with Storm assistant coach Dean Lance will contest the same charge relating to the same tackle at the NRL judiciary tomorrow night.
After beating a dangerous throw charge earlier in the year Smith will be sidelined for one week however if Sargent is found guilty he stands to miss three matches.
Last week?s eighteenth man Nathan Friend has been elevated to the role of starting hooker to cover the loss of 20-year-old Smith.
With a win this weekend almost certainly securing a finals berth for the Storm ? Melbourne has a bye in round 25 and two home games yet to come ? Lance is disappointed to have lost Smith but is confident the Sargent can beat the charge levelled at him.
?We?re defending Mitch (Sargent) because we think he isn?t guilty of a throw,? Lance explained.
?We think he?s the third party in the tackle and he was just hanging on to the player that was already in the action of being lifted by Cameron (Smith).
?As soon as he saw that the tackle was going above the horizontal he let go and was not party to it at all.?
Lance isn?t underestimating the importance of keeping intact the front-row that has seen the Storm climb to sixth position on the NRL ladder with just five rounds remaining.
?Sargent is important for us considering the injuries to some of our younger players from (feeder club) Brisbane Norths, we haven?t got the depth that we would have hoped for,? the former Leeds coach said.
?Everyone is important to us including Smith, but we need a front-rower in our side.?
The Storm will be looking to arrest a three-year losing streak when it takes on the fourth placed Bulldogs this Sunday.
MELBOURNE STORM TEAM TO PLAY THE BULLDOGS, THIS SUNDAY AT THE SYDNEY SHOWGROUNDS, 3.00PM
1. Billy Slater 2. Fifita Moala 3. Steven Bell 4. David Kidwell 5. Marcus Bai 6. Matt Geyer 7. Matt Orford 8. Robbie Kearns 9. Nathan Friend 10. Mitchell Sargent* 11. Peter Robinson 12. Stephen Kearney (c) 13. Dallas Johnson
Bench 14. Danny Williams 15. Ryan Hoffman 16. Kirk Reynoldson 17. Glen Turner
IN: Nathan Friend OUT: Cameron Smith, Mitchell Sargent*
*Pending judiciary outcome