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2021 NRL Round One Preview, Storm Vs Rabbitohs

Chris Rooney previews the opening game of the 2021 NRL season when defending premiers the Melbourne Storm host the South Sydney Rabbitohs.

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TEAM NEWS

Venue: AAMI Park, Date: 11/3, Time: 8:05pm (local)

Storm Team

  1. Ryan Papenhuyzen
  2. George Jennings
  3. Reimis Smith
  4. Justin Olam
  5. Josh Addo-Carr
  6. Cameron Munster
  7. Jahrome Hughes
  8. Jesse Bromwich
  9. Brandon Smith
  10. Christian Welch
  11. Felise Kaufusi
  12. Kenneath Bromwich
  13. Nelson Asofa-Solomona
  14. Chris Lewis
  15. Tui Kamikamica
  16. Tom Eisenhuth
  17. Nicholas Hynes
  18. Darryn Schonig
  19. Cooper Johns
  20. Trent Loiero
  21. Tyson Smoothy

Team Changes

IN: n/a
OUT: n/a

Rabbitohs Team

  1. Latrell Mitchell
  2. Alex Johnston
  3. Dane Gagai
  4. Campbell Graham
  5. Josh Mansour
  6. Cody Walker
  7. Adam Reynolds
  8. Thomas Burgess
  9. Damien Cook
  10. Tevita Tatola
  11. Jacob Host
  12. Jaydn Su’A
  13. Cameron Murray
  14. Benji Marshall
  15. Mark Nicholls
  16. Keaon Koloamatangi
  17. Jai Arrow
  18. Patrick Mago
  19. Jaxson Paulo
  20. Tautau Moga
  21. Troy Dargan

Team Changes

IN: n/a
OUT:
n/a

Referee: Grant Atkins

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Storm

The Storm will return to Melbourne to host a game for the first time since September 2019. The reigning premiers enter this game with a good trial win against the Knights and are hoping to become the second team in the NRL era to go back-to-back. The Storm will enter the season without Cameron Smith or Harry Grant, but are lucky enough to have Brandon Smith – the New Zealand Test dummy half – start for them.

Under Craig Bellamy, the Storm have never lost a round one match and will be keen to start strong once again. Grant is expected to miss the first five weeks of the season and Dale Finucane will face six weeks on the sidelines. Brenko Lee is also expected to miss time after finishing in the centres last season. Nelson Asofa-Solomona has been named at lock, while new recruits George Jennings will debut on the wing and Reimis Smith with debut in the centres.

2021 Storm Season Preview

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Rabbitohs

The Rabbitohs start the season as strong as they ever have in recent memory. While they have never won a single game before in Melbourne, they boast a world class back-line including Latrell Mitchell, Cody Walker, Campbell Graham and a strong forward pack: so they would have a bit more confidence heading into this match.

The only major player missing for them is Liam Knight, who suffered a concussion during training leading into the Charity Shield. Apart from Knight, they will enter Melbourne with a strong roster in terrific form from the Charity Shield nearly a fortnight ago.

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The Rabbitohs’ trial match against the Dragons proved they may be the real deal this season, scoring points with not only confidence but also with ease.

They also will debut a few new players this Thursday night, with Josh Mansour debuting on the wing, Jacob Host debuting in the back row, and both Benji Marshall and Jai Arrow to debut off the bench.

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2021 Rabbitohs Season Preview

PREVIEW

Talk about an opener! This is one of the best opening matches in recent memory. The Storm may have lost Cameron Smith, but when Harry Grant comes back, look out at the next best number nine. Of course Brandon Smith will have something to say about that: the Storm really are blessed with the supreme talent that they boast and never seem to miss a step. There are so many fantastic one-on-one matches including –
● Ryan Papenhuyzen vs Latrell Mitchell
● Cameron Munster vs Cody Walker
● Nelson Asofa-Solomona vs Cameron Murray
● Brandon Smith vs Damian Cook
● Jahrome Hughes vs Adam Reynolds
● Craig Bellamy vs Wayne Bennett

Yes, we cannot forget the rivalry between the two super coaches who make this match-up even more the interesting. The two coaches clearly have no time for each other and it has been an ongoing and bitter rivalry for a very long time. Bellamy has the upper hand against Bennett, which is an incredible feat to boast for any coach.

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The game will be won in the middle and will also depend on which five-eighth can create the most for their respective teams, as Munster is arguably the best player in the competition with Walker being one of the most naturally gifted players in the competition.

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KEY STAT

The Storm have a winning record over every team expect the Bulldogs, and the Souths rivalry is where the Storm have absolutely dominated, winning 28 out of 33 games against the Rabbitohs. The Storm won both of their two recent matches, each time scoring a total of 22 points.

PREDICTION

History is clearly against the Rabbitohs this Thursday, but even though it was a trial match, the way they just scored at will makes them a very scary team to face this year. They are in for a huge year and a win against the Storm will be the perfect start to their campaign.

However, I never bet against my team and I am still immensely proud of what they achieved last year and where they are going. The Storm are yet to lose a round one match under Bellamy, and even without the greatest number nine of all time, I expect the trend to live on even though I won’t be surprised if the Rabbitohs managed to find a way to win.
Bring on the footy!

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Storm 1-12.

 

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