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Melbourne Storm v St-George Illawarra Dragons
Monday March 7, 7pm
AAMI Park

The wait is finally over… footy is back! Storm will kick off their 2016 season against the Dragons this Monday night at AAMI Park in a season opener that promises to be a thrilling contest.

The teams will be playing for the Emergency Services Cup in honour of the tireless efforts of Victoria and New South Wales volunteer firefighters and emergency services personnel.

With no representative duties over summer Cameron Smith, Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk head into Round 1 having experienced their best pre-season in years.

Slater’s inclusion will see the superstar fullback play his first game in a purple jersey in ten months after being sidelined with a shoulder injury.

Be there in Round 1 on Monday 7 March at AAMI Park.

The Dragons will have a prominent Melbourne flavour about them on Monday night with Storm premiership player Gareth Widdop to captain the Red V while former Storm player Kurt Mann takes over their No.1 jersey.

Key Matchups:

1. Cooper Cronk v Gareth Widdop
Need we say more of the battle between these two former premiership teammates? Both men will be looking steer their respective sides to victory and with their mutual creative genius on full display be prepared to be wowed for the full 80 minutes.

2. Billy Slater v Kurt Mann
The Storm No.1 is the greatest fullback of his generation but has not played since Round 10 last year while Mann spent much of his two seasons with Storm in the centres. This makes his Dragons debut at fullback all the more intriguing. The old master against the unproven recruit, it is a script that will no doubt make for interesting reading.

3. Will Chambers v Josh Dugan
These two Origin stars will spend the night on opposite sides of AAMI Park but their importance in the centres for their respective sides is paramount. After a solid 2015 at fullback, Dugan’s switch to the centres is an interesting one while Chambers has been a picture of consistency in the position, earning him both Queensland and Australian honours in recent years.

Milestone: Marika Koroibete – 50 NRL games

The History: Played 31; Storm 22, Dragons 8, Drawn 1. The head-to-head stats are all fall in favour of the men in purple. They make for even happier reading when you consider the Dragons have not won in Melbourne since 1999.

Last meeting – Storm 22 def Dragons 4 (Rd 20, 2015)

What we’ve said:

"A lot of people had written (the Dragons) off last year and they proved a lot of people wrong. I think they are going to take another step forward this year so it is going to be a tough challenge." – Tohu Harris

“I’ve been on the sideline for over eight months now and like any footy player that is way too long so I’m looking forward to a game of footy.” – Billy Slater

“(50 games) is a big achievement for me, coming this far. I can’t wait to get out there and rip in with the boys.” – Marika Koroibete

What they’ve said:

"I have friends and family down there still so to go back there and skipper the Dragons is I suppose quite ironic really and something I’m looking forward to." – Gareth Widdop.

“We’ve got 18 new faces out of 36 and usually that takes a bit of time but a lot of the guys knew each other… our attitude during pre-season has been outstanding.” – Paul McGreggor.

“I believe that this season I will need to take it up another level on the field.” Tim Lafai

Match Officials: Referee – Grant Atkins, Assistant – Gavin Reynolds, Touch Judges – Jon Stone, Anthony Elliott, Review Officials – Ben Galea & Jaren Maxwell, Senior Review Official – Bernard Sutton.

Broadcast: TV – Fox Sports 1, Radio – ABC, Triple MMM. Online – NRL Digital Pass.

Melbourne Storm

St George Illawarra Dragons

1. Billy Slater  

1. Kurt Mann

2. Young Tonumaipea

2. Euan Aitken

3. Will Chambers

3. Josh Dugan

4. Richie Kennar

4. Tim Lafai

5. Marika Koroibete 

5. Jason Nightingale

6. Blake Green

6. Gareth Widdop (c)

7. Cooper Cronk

7. Benji Marshall

8. Jesse Bromwich

8. Leeson Ah Mau

9. Cameron Smith (c) 

9. Mitch Rein

10. Jordan McLean

10. Russell Packer

11. Kevin Proctor

11. Will Matthews

12. Tohu Harris

12. Joel Thompson

13. Dale Finucane

13. Mike Cooper

 

 

Bench

Bench

14. Kenny Bromwich 

14. Ben Creagh

15. Tim Glasby

15. Jack de Belin

16. Ben Hampton

16. Dunamis Lui

17. Christian Welch

17. Siliva Havili

18. Felise Kaufusi

18. Peter Mata’utia

19. Nelson Asofa Solomona

19. Tyrone McCarthy

 

20. Jake Marketo

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