Bulldogs and 'Blues in Waiting' prop Aiden Tolman will have plenty to play for against his former Storm team-mates in Melbourne tonight with NSW coach Ricky Stuart admitting he is concerned about the Blues’ front row.
With just seven weeks until the 2011 Origin series kicks off, Stuart said he had "real concern" about the front row position and wouldn’t be afraid to introduce new players for the future.
"It is such a critical part of your team and we need to gain some dominance in this position," he told NRL.com.
"We haven’t got a lot of experience or age in that position and it requires a person with that.
"There’s a gap between the others coming through and senior players who are at the back end of their careers."
Tolman, 23, has not made any representative teams yet since making his first grade debut in 2008, but he was named in the 51-man 'Blues in Waiting' squad in January and his form with his new club after three rounds has been impressive. He is averaging an astonishing 21 runs for 160 metres, 37 tackles and 66 minutes played per game.
League Information Services statistics show that if he is able to maintain those averages throughout the season, he will smash every statistical record for a prop in NRL history.
Stuart has been watching and reviewing every game of the NRL season so far - both individual performances and combinations - and has been pleased with the form of some of the 'Blues in Waiting' squad, in particular Aaron Woods and Andrew Fifita from the Wests Tigers.
"They have been playing outstanding football … they have really jumped into it from the start of the season," Stuart said.
"But it was disappointing to see the injuries to Josh Morris and Chris Lawrence. They were both left-hand centres and that leaves a bit of a hole. We did have depth there but they have knocked that around a little."
Two of the 'Blues in Waiting' right-hand centres will be up against each other tonight at AAMI Park, with the Bulldogs’ Jamal Idris (115kg and 194cm) and Storm’s Beau Champion (96kg and 186cm) set for an enthralling battle.
"They have two different styles of play," Stuart said. “Idris is a big explosive centre … raw power. Beau Champion is tough, good on his feet and a strong defensive player. It will be a good challenge for both."
The Bulldogs will be looking to maintain their unbeaten record and outright top spot on the ladder against the Storm, who have recorded just one loss so far along with the Broncos and Dragons.
Round four saw both the Titans and Warriors register their first wins of the 2011 season, joining the Panthers and Raiders at the bottom of the table with a 1-3 record.
Greg Bird slotted a golden-point field goal to steer Gold Coast to an upset 23-22 win over the Raiders at Canberra Stadium on Saturday night following crucial blunders in the final minutes.
With the Raiders leading 22-16 with 40 seconds remaining, veteran halfback Matt Orford knocked on from the scrum base before Gold Coast back-rower Anthony Laffranchi scored from the set of six. Then Blake Ferguson knocked on inside his own 10m in extra time to allow Bird to boot the winning field goal.
The Warriors responded to coach Ivan Cleary’s sweeping changes to score their first win of 2011 with a solid 26-18 victory over the Sharks in Cronulla's 'home' game at Owen Delaney Park in Taupo, NZ, yesterday.
In other round four matches, the Broncos came from behind to beat the Panthers, 18-10, at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night while the Rabbitohs held off the fast-finishing Sea Eagles, 32-30, at Bluetongue Stadium in Gosford.
On Saturday, Luke Burt's record-breaking converted late try sealed a 22-20 win for the Eels over the Cowboys, giving new coach Stephen Kearney his first win at Parramatta Stadium.
On Sunday, the Dragons withstood a furious Knights’ finish for a 20-18 victory at Newcastle’s new Ausgrid Stadium while the Roosters savaged the injury-hit Wests Tigers, 24-6, at the SFS despite ending the game with 12 on the field. Anthony Minichiello was sin-binned for not allowing Wests Tigers’ skipper Robbie Farah to play the ball.