St George Illawarra Dragons v Melbourne Storm
WIN Stadium, Wollongong
Nobody would've predicted that the St George Illawarra Dragons and Melbourne Storm would be sitting in the top two on the NRL Telstra Premiership ladder after nine rounds.
While the Dragons have suffered a few bumps in the road over the past week – namely the golden point loss to the Roosters on Anzac Day and skipper Gareth Widdop's knee injury – they won't spend their short turnaround worrying about the negatives.
The Storm produced a handy win over the Warriors on Anzac Day and will be boosted by the return of Kenny Bromwich in the back row.
Dragons coach Paul McGregor has named Kurt Mann at five-eighth in place of Widdop, with Taane Milne returning to the 17 from the bench.
The Dragons will also celebrate the 100th NRL game of back-rower Tyson Frizell ahead of his return to the Australian Test side in May. He will also captain the side in Widdop's absence.
The Emergency Services Cup will also be on the line in this top of the table clash.
Dragons: 1. Josh Dugan, 2. Nene Macdonald, 3. Euan Aitken, 4. Tim Lafai, 5. Jason Nightingale, 6. Kurt Mann, 7. Josh McCrone, 8. Russell Packer, 9. Cameron McInnes, 10. Paul Vaughan, 11. Tyson Frizell (c), 12. Joel Thompson, 13. Jack de Belin. Interchange: 14. Tariq Sims, 15. Leeson Ah Mau, 16. Hame Sele, 17. Taane Milne, 18. Jai Field, 19. Blake Lawrie, 20. Luciano Leilua, 21. Jacob Host.
Storm: 1. Billy Slater, 2. Suliasi Vunivalu, 3. Will Chambers, 4. Cheyse Blair, 5. Josh Addo-Carr, 6. Cameron Munster, 7. Cooper Cronk, 8. Jesse Bromwich, 9. Cameron Smith (c), 10. Jordan McLean, 11. Felise Kaufusi, 12. Kenny Bromwich, 13. Dale Finucane. Interchange: 14. Christian Welch, 15. Tim Glasby, 16. Nelson Asofa-Solomona, 17. Ryley Jacks, 18. Joe Stimson, 19. Mark Nicholls, 20. Young Tonumaipea, 21. Curtis Scott.
Key Match-Up: Jack de Belin v Dale Finucane: They'll likely be teammates in the Country Origin team in the week following, but that won't stop these two from colliding on Sunday afternoon. De Belin spent time in the halves on Anzac Day but will revert back to his preferred lock role with little fuss. Tough-as-nails Finucane has become an integral member of the Storm's 17 over the past few seasons and shouldn't be taken lightly.
The History: Played 33; Dragons 9, Storm 23, Drawn 1. The Dragons had the last laugh when they last played Melbourne in 2016. While it was during the Origin period – and both sides were missing players – the Red V prevailed by 10 points. Melbourne however haven't dropped consecutive games to the Dragons since their first two meetings back in 1999.
Match Officials: Referee: Matt Cecchin. Assistant Referee: Chris Butler. Sideline Officials: Ziggy Przeklasa-Adamski and Belinda Sleeman.
Televised: Channel Nine – Live Coverage from 3:30pm; Fox League – Live coverage from 3:30pm
Radio: ABC and Triple M