Schick Hydro Preview: Melbourne Storm v Canterbury Bulldogs
Melbourne Storm will look to extend their unbeaten home start to the 2016 NRL Telstra Premiership season to four matches when the Canterbury Bulldogs come to town on Monday night.
The Storm have won all three at home and have a 4-1 record so far this season, which is good enough to seem them in second place on the ladder after five rounds.
Canterbury sit seventh on the table at 3-2, after a below-par performance at Belmore on Monday night saw them go down to the Raiders.
Like the Bulldogs, the Storm were also below their best last weekend against the Knights but an improved burst in the final 20 minutes, led by tries to Cooper Cronk and Richie Kennar, was enough to get the home side out of jail and take the points.
The Dogs travel to AAMI Park without any fear, as they've left Melbourne with a win on their last two visits.
The Storm welcome back winger Marika Koroibete from suspension, while Kerrod Holland comes in for the Dogs replacing Chase Stanley, after the centre suffered a hamstring injury against the Raiders.
Watch out Storm: The battle of the forwards will no doubt be an interesting one on Monday night, and it's a battle that the Storm cannot afford to lose. James Graham and Aiden Tolman headline what many consider to be the best forward pack in the NRL, so if the Canterbury big men are able to assert themselves on the game, it will go a long way to them getting the victory.
Watch out Bulldogs: A frustrated Cameron Smith wasn't anywhere near his best on Saturday against the Knights, and so far this season Smith has yet to really stamp his authority on a game. This may be the Storm's biggest match of the year so far, and they'll need their captain to shine in order to get the victory. A nine-day break for the Storm should allow for the Australian skipper to be fit and firing for the game, so the Bulldogs will need to keep him quiet early or he could be in for a big night.
Key match-up: Jesse Bromwich v James Graham. In a game which will most likely be decided by the strong forward packs in each side, this match-up seems to be the pick on the bunch. Bromwich is not only dangerous with ball in hand but also in the tackle, as he's given the most offloads in the competition so far this season. Graham leads the league in hit-ups and is fourth overall in running metres, so look for both to try to propel their teams to victory in this absorbing prop battle.
The history: Played 36; Storm 16, Bulldogs 20. Canterbury have a brilliant recent record against the Storm, winning the past five meetings, including their last two at AAMI Park. It's been three years since the Storm have beaten the Bulldogs, with their last win coming in Round 3, 2013.
What are the odds: Melbourne are rock solid favourites however the Bulldogs have been backed at the line, where they're receiving the points start. Should be nothing in this according to the Sportsbet punters, with the money running close to 50:50 in the head-to-head market.
Match officials: Referee: Jared Maxwell. Assistant Referee: Matt Noyen. Touch Judges: Russell Turner, Clayton Sharpe. Review Officials: Ben Galea, Ashley Klein. Senior RO: Bernard Sutton.
Televised: Fox Sports – Live coverage from 6.30pm (AEST).
How we see it: Both sides have enjoyed a positive start to the season, however the Bulldogs will be looking to bounce back strongly after a poor showing at home in Belmore last Monday against the Raiders. The Dogs have enjoyed some success in Melbourne over recent years, and with the Storm's attack still yet to click into gear, look for the hoodoo to continue. Bulldogs by 6.