Storm v Warriors preview
Melbourne Storm V New Zealand Warriors
A favourite son returns, playing for a bogey team that holds no fear, making this Round 5 clash between the Warriors and Storm a true Easter special.
AAMI Park may as well be a home away from home for the Warriors, who have taken the points from three of their past five visits, including a 16-10 Anzac Day win last year.
A different public holiday may bring a different result but with both teams poised at 2-2 this Easter Monday clash is shaping as a coin flip.
New Zealand are battling through the NRL's second longest injury list while it is a clean bill of health for a Melbourne team still baffled by their Monday night capitulation in Townsville.
Craig Bellamy's blood looked set to boil after two crucial penalties were awarded against his side as the Storm let slip a seven point lead with two minutes to go.
It wasn't much better across the ditch where not even 16 unanswered points could erase a dismal first half performance by the Warriors against the Broncos.
The visitors will welcome back centre Ngani Laumape for his first game of 2015, replacing Matt Allwood, but what the injury gods giveth they taketh away with Ben Henry to miss the rest of the season with a ruptured ACL. Sebastine Ikahihifo has been named in his place.
Despite the devastating loss Bellamy has refused to wield the selection axe, naming an unchanged side.
Watch Out Storm: The Incomplete Performance: Melbourne looked to have turned a corner in Round 3 with a 92 per cent completion rate against the Sharks. However 12 errors on Monday, three uncharacteristically by Cooper Cronk, saw their profligacy return. Outside of the Sharks game, the once ever-efficient Storm have an average completion rate of just 72.3 per cent from their other three games. Both the Warriors' wins this season have come when the opposition has recorded less than 80 per cent, making the home side's care for the football paramount on Monday.
Watch Out Warriors: Return of Marika: Kick return defence killed New Zealand last week as they allowed 847 metres, the most of any team in Round 4. That becomes a greater task this week against Storm winger Marika Koroibete, who currently ranks third in the NRL for total metres. Last week Koroibete showed just how devastating he can be, returning a Johnathan Thurston bomb 95 metres to make an early claim for solo try of the year. Note to Shaun Johnson, best not to bomb to the Fijian in the No.5.
Key Match-Up: Ryan Hoffman V Tohu Harris. After 12 seasons with the Storm Ryan Hoffman will be running into a purple jersey instead of wearing one. The premiership winner played 245 games for Melbourne before joining the Warriors on a three-year deal. Storm fans will still no doubt be in an air of disbelief when their favourite son runs onto AAMI Park in a different jersey. Tohu Harris is the man that has stepped into Hoffman's shoes this season, averaging 136 metres in his first four games. If Harris can win the duel on Monday night the changing of the Storm's second row guard would be all but complete.
The History: Played 34; Storm 17, Warriors 15, Drawn 2. The Warriors have more wins against Melbourne than any side other than the Bulldogs. New Zealand have won the past two meetings and hold an impressive record in Melbourne of seven wins, nine losses and two draws.
What Are The Odds: Storm ($1.38) v Warriors ($2.90). As soon as Sportsbet opened the Warriors at $2.96, punters were all over them given their winning record against Melbourne. The money is running 3:1 in favour of New Zealand, and people are particularly keen on the Kiwi side to win 1-12 in margin betting.
Match Officials: Referees: Adam Devcich & Gavin Reynolds. Touch Judges: Clayton Sharpe & Michael Wise. Video Referees: Steve Chiddy & Luke Phillips.
Televised: Fox Sports, Live, 5pm AEDT.
The Way We See It: The Warriors may carry the bogey tag and have a habit of reigning on the purple parade but that injury toll may be too great to overcome a home team desperate to avenge a Round 4 embarrassment. Storm by 4 points.