Storm v Knights: Glasby to start, Bromwich to bench
Just like the Roosters, Cowboys and Sharks, perennial heavyweights Melbourne are yet to stamp their authority in 2018.
There have been flashes of the usual excellence we've come to expect, but even with the peerless Cameron Smith still calling the shots, the Storm haven't proved they have settled comfortably into the life-after-Cronk era.
Newcastle have had their bright moments over the opening rounds and boast a star in the making in Kalyn Ponga. A rare road win over the reigning premiers might be just what the Knights need to truly convince themselves they are top eight material.
The key match-up: Billy Slater v Kalyn Ponga. The two fullbacks are key for their team in both defence and attack. Ponga is coming off a superb game against the Broncos – 223 metres gained and a try assist – while Slater has had a couple of disappointing weeks.
For the Storm to win: Hold the ball. They completed 64% of their sets and had 19 errors last round. To quote coach Craig Bellamy, "It ain't good enough."
For the Knights to win: Keep the faith. They'll have the belief after beating the Broncos – a team they've struggled against recently – and Mitchell Pearce will be telling his troops they can do the same against the Storm.
Storm Stat Attack: Melbourne managed 43 tackle breaks against the Tigers but failed to convert them into regular points.
Knights Stat Attack: 83%. That was their completion rate against the Broncos. They're gritty and committed with the football.
And another thing: The Storm last started a season 2-3 in 2004. They still managed to make the preliminary final.
The prediction: Knights by 4.
Match: Storm vs Knights
Venue: AAMI Park
- Fox League
- LIVE PASS
Melbourne Storm v Newcastle Knights, 6pm Friday at AAMI Park
Storm: 1 Billy Slater, 2 Suliasi Vunivalu, 3 Young Tonumaipea, 4 Curtis Scott, 5 Josh Addo-Carr, 6 Cameron Munster, 7 Ryley Jacks, 8 Jesse Bromwich, 9 Cameron Smith (c), 10 Nelson Asofa-Solomona, 11 Felise Kaufusi, 12 Ryan Hoffman, 15 Tim Glasby
Interchange: 13 Kenny Bromwich, 14 Joe Stimson, 16 Christian Welch, 18 Brandon Smith
Craig Bellamy has lost patience with under-performing half Brodie Croft, who has been dropped in favour of Ryley Jacks. Kenny Bromwich has been moved to the bench, with Tim Glasby the new starting lock.
Knights: 1 Kalyn Ponga, 2 Shaun Kenny-Dowall, 3 Sione Mata'utia, 4 Nathan Ross, 5 Ken Sio, 6 Brock Lamb, 7 Mitchell Pearce (c), 8 Daniel Saifit, 9 Slade Griffin, 10 Jacob Lillyman, 11 Lachlan Fitzgibbon, 12 Aidan Guerra, 13 Herman Ese'ese
Interchange: 14 Danny Levi, 15 Chris Heighington, 16 Jamie Buhrer (c), 17 Jacob Saifiti
The Knights have stuck with the original 17-man side named on Tuesday. Herman Ese'ese moves from prop to lock for the suspended Mitch Barnett and Daniel Saifiti from bench to prop. Jack Cogger and Cory Denniss were the two men dropped from the bench 24 hours out from kick-off.
Head-to-head: Played 38; Storm 23 wins, Knights 15 wins
Matches at venue: Played 10; Storm 8 wins, Knights 2 wins
2017 results: Storm won 40-12 at AAMI Park in round 13 and 44-12 at McDonald Jones Stadium in round 24
Points per game: Storm 17.6 (9th); Knights 16.8 (10th)
Points conceded per game: Storm 13.4 (4th); Knights 24.8 (13th)
Televised: Live on Fox League