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2021 NRL Round Five Preview, Bulldogs Vs Storm

Matt Pritchard previews the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs’ clash with the Melbourne Storm, set down for Saturday at Stadium Australia.

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TEAM NEWS

Venue: Stadium Australia, Sydney, Date: Saturday April 10, Time: 5:30pm

Bulldogs Team

1. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak
2. Nick Cotric
3. Will Hopoate
4. Corey Allan
5. Tuipulotu Katoa
6. Jake Averillo
7. Kyle Flanagan
8. Luke Thompson
9. Sione Katoa
10. Jack Hetherington
11. Adam Elliott
12. Corey Waddell
13. Josh Jackson
14. Jackson Topine
15. Renouf Atoni
16. Dylan Napa
17. Ofahiki Ogden
19. Brandon Wakeham
20. Chris Smith
21. Dean Britt
22. Joe Stimson

Team Changes

IN: Brandon Wakeham, Chris Smith, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, Jake Averillo, Josh Jackson, Luke Thompson.
OUT: Lachlan Lewis, Nick Meaney.

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. Nicho Hynes
18. Aaron Pene
19. Dean Ieremia
20. Brenko Lee
21. Harry Grant

Team Changes

IN: Aaron Pene, Brenko Lee, Dean Ieremia, Felise Kaufusi, Harry Grant
OUT: Trent Loiero

Referee: Chris Sutton

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Bulldogs

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The Bulldogs go into their encounter with Melbourne without a win and without a score since the 75th minute of their round one loss to Newcastle at McDonald Jones Stadium.

As Bulldogs CEO Aaron Warbuton exclusively told Nothing But League this week, the vision is to be a top four side, but it will take some time and patience from their sponsors and supporters.

With the return of Dallin Watene-Zelezniak at fullback, there’s been a backline shuffle with Nick Cotric back to the wing and Corey Allan to the centres. Jake Averillo returns for Lachlan Lewis (who suffered a severe concussion on Good Friday). Nick Meaney is out injured.

English forward Luke Thompson is a welcome return after being suspended in the final round of 2020. Josh Jackson also returns after being suspended for a crusher tackle in his side’s loss to the Broncos.

For Dogs fans, hopefully this is the squad which will bring stability and much-needed confidence. After the Storm encounter they face the Cowboys – a game that could be the kickstart they need for 2021.

Storm

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There’s no doubt the Melbourne Storm are in the top five sides of 2021, despite sitting in seventh place. Losses to the Eels and Panthers in consecutive weeks were put behind them with the Ryan Papenhuyzen show at AAMI Park when they thrashed Brisbane 40-6.

In a minor tweak to their side, Felise Kaufusi comes back after serving a suspension. Melbourne will continue to work back to a full strength side with Brenko Lee and Harry Grant named on the extended reserves bench. Out of the two, Grant is the one expected to force his way into the final 17.

This game will supply some fine-tuning ahead of their blockbuster clash with arch rivals the Sydney Roosters at AAMI Park on April 16.

PREVIEW

This game may already be in the bag for Melbourne given their big win over Brisbane, but doubt still remains over whether they are missing Cam Smith’s direction. It took 25 minutes for the Storm to warm to Brisbane before one man blew the game apart. And maybe this is where the hidden danger lies with Melbourne? Someone needs to stand up and take control of the game. It was Papenhuyzen last week, maybe it’s Munster’s turn this week?

Melbourne will be looking at the hapless Bulldogs and thinking they can inflict further pain by keeping them scoreless. Given they are the third best defensive team in the NRL after four rounds, they will be looking to do what the Rabbitohs, Broncos, and Panthers have done these last three weeks.

Canterbury can hopefully switch on for a full 80 minutes. Their first half against South Sydney last week was good, so too their effort in the wet against the Panthers in the second round.

Thompson returning is a big in, as Jack Hetherington was a lone figure taking on the Bunnies’ defence last week. I’m sure he’ll welcome the English international to help him take the fight up to the Storm this weekend. Jackson shouldn’t be left out of the equation either: finally some go forward that the Dogs desperately need.

Perhaps this will lay the platform for Kyle Flanagan to show his potential and find the likes of Cotric and Corey Allan. These two know their way to the tryline but they need the space to work in.

Bulldogs fans shouldn’t be expecting miracles. The important thing is to break the duck and get over the line, work on completion rates, cut out the set restarts and work into field position: basics needed to be competitive in the competition.

KEY STAT

The Melbourne Storm have won their previous five games against the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs; however, the Bulldogs won the previous six clashes before that. The last time these two teams met at Stadium Australia was way back in 2013 where the Bulldogs eclipsed Melbourne 39-0. Sam Perrett scored a hat-trick and Mitch Brown a double. It will be ironic if Melbourne reverse the outcome and keep the Bulldogs to zip given their recent run of outs.

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PREDICTION

It would be a miracle for the Bulldogs to take this one out. However, I feel with the return of Watene-Zelezniak at the back, and Thompson up front, they will get over the tryline this week and won’t leave without troubling the scorers.

Storm by 30.

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