The Late Mail: Dragons v Wests Tigers
20 days ago | LeagueUnlimited Media
Rain and fire clash in afternoon of milestones
The Melbourne Storm will be out to continue their dominance over the St George Illawarra Dragons when the long-standing rivals face off in the Victorian capital on Sunday afternoon.
Coming up against their grand final combatants from the club's inaugural premiership victory, the Melbourne Storm will commemorate two major milestones with Kenny Bromwich becoming the eighth player to reach 200 NRL games and Nelson Asofa-Solomona moving to 17th on the list of games played in his 150th appearance in purple colours.
Scoring 120 points in their past two matches, including a half century in the 50-2 demolition against the Knights seven days earlier, coach Craig Bellamy has benefited from consistency in his squad over the first third of the season with 15 of the 22 players used in first grade appearing in at least six of the opening eight matches.
Winning four of their past six matches against the joint venture at all venues, Jordan Grant will come onto the bench for his first appearance of 2022 in place of Tepai Moeroa in an otherwise unchanged roster.
Finding form with three straight wins to move within striking distance of the top eight, the St George Illawarra Dragons will be hoping to create history with their first win in Melbourne during the 21st century.
Winning their first two visits to Melbourne in 1999 at the former Olympic Park, the merged venture have lost their subsequent 15 successive visits at all venues in the Victorian capital, including all five contested at AAMI Park.
Showing resilience to finish on top of the Tigers 12-6 last Sunday, coach Anthony Griffin has recalled Jack Bird to five-eighth with Talatau Amone shifting to the bench and last week's match-winner Jayden Sullivan dropping to 18th man.
Eyeing off four straight wins for the second time during Griffin's reign, the former Brisbane and Penrith mentor has never won against Craig Bellamy in 11 previous attempts.
Last meeting: Round 10 2021 - Storm 44 Dragons 18
Who to watch: Finding the try line seven times in the space of a week to bolster his claims as one of the buys of the season, representative flyer Xavier Coates has enjoyed a dream start to life in the Victorian capital. Leading the league alongside his teammate Ryan Papenhuyzen with ten tries over the first eight rounds, the 21-year-old flyer has contributed a further four try-assists and eight line breaks to earn an upgraded deal with the club mere months after joining from Brisbane. All but assured of a wing spot in Billy Slater's Queensland side for the opening State of Origin fixture in a month's time, look for Coates to continue his try-scoring exploits in his first appearance against the Dragons in first grade.
Making the most of a latter day shift to the edge after playing almost exclusively as a middle forward for more than a decade, Josh McGuire has been a prominent contributor in the side's recent run of form. Sitting out the opening five rounds through a suspension incurred in the final round of last season, the 32-year-old Queenslander has enjoyed three straight victories while averaging over 120 running metres and 30 tackles each week. Facing an uncertain future with his current deal expiring at the end of the season, expect McGuire to press his case for a new contract if recent performances continue over the coming weeks.
The favourite: In a surprise not seen since Anthony Mundine dropped the ball over the line in the 1999 grand final, the Storm will start as favourites after winning seven of their opening eight matches this season.
My tip: Zac Lomax, Cody Ramsey, the Feagai brothers, Jayden Sullivan, Talatau Amone, and Tyrell Sloan weren't born the last time the Dragons won in Melbourne. You might call that a useless stat, but you'll still pick the Storm in Melbourne anyway! Storm by 12.
1. Ryan Papenhuyzen 2. Nick Meaney 3. Reimis Smith 4. Justin Olam 5. Xavier Coates 6. Cameron Munster 7. Jahrome Hughes 8. Jesse Bromwich 9. Harry Grant 10. Nelson Asofa-Solomona 11. Felise Kaufusi 12. Kenny Bromwich 13. Josh King 14. Brandon Smith 15. Tyran Wishart 16. Trent Loiero 18. Chris Lewis 17. Jordan Grant
1. Moses Mbye 2. Mathew Feagai 3. Moses Suli 4. Zac Lomax 5. Mikaele Ravalawa 14. Talatau Amone 7. Ben Hunt 8. Francis Molo 9. Andrew McCullough 11. Tariq Sims 6. Jack Bird 12. Josh Mcguire 13. Jack de Belin 15. Blake Lawrie 16. Aaron Woods 17. Tyrell Fuimaono 18. Jayden Sullivan 20. Jack Gosiewski
Referees: Peter Gough; Sideline Officials: Drew Oultram, Phil Henderson; Video Referees: Matt Noyen;