Date: Saturday, March 15
Kick-off: 5:30pm (Melbourne time)
Storm: 1 Billy Slater 2 Sisa Waqa 3 Will Chambers 4 Mahe Fonua 5 Young Tonumaipea 6 Ben Hampton 7 Cooper Cronk 8 Jesse Bromwich 9 Cameron Smith (c) 10 Bryan Norrie 11 Kevin Proctor 12 Ryan Hoffman 13 Ryan Hinchcliffe Interchange 14 Kenny Bromwich 15 Tohu Harris 16 Jordan McLean 17 George Rose 18 Ben Roberts
Two days after kicking the winning field goal against Manly, Cameron Smith announced a four-year contract extension that will see him stay at the Melbourne Storm till the end of 2018. He turned away a big money offer to move to the Broncos but said his family — of whom he has two girls in primary school — was the main priority in his decision to finish his career at the same club he started with in 2002.
Cooper Cronk’s return from a shoulder reconstruction is a massive boost for the Storm. Last year’s Dally M medalist will slot straight into his customary halfback position, relegating Ben Roberts to the bench.
Penrith coach Ivan Cleary has named an unchanged lineup with both Jamal Idris and Tim Grant still unavailable.
Melbourne’s first home game of the year will be an even bigger occasion as there are two milestones. Not only will Cameron Smith will play his 263rd game, eclipsing Matt Geyer as the longest-serving player in the club’s history, but Billy Slater will also play his 250th game.
This will be an interesting match to gauge where Penrith are at. They had a lot of new recruits over the off-season and started with a comfortable 30-8 win over Newcastle. But most of the scoring was done in the second half when the Knights were decimated with injuries right through their spine.
Melbourne Storm will be up for this at AAMI Park on Saturday night and I tip them to win by 12 points.
Editors note: Penrith’s last win in Melbourne was on 18th June 2005. Check out QLDPanthers.com for a full preview