Suburban footy kicks off Friday Night Football in 2017 when the BULLDOGS host MELBOURNE at Belmore Sports Ground.
Canterbury enter the season as one of the teams under pressure having failed to live up to expectations in 2016.
Returning to their spiritual home for an opening round encounter could be the way to get Des Hasler’s men off to a good start, however, they haven’t been given an easy task in Melbourne.
The Storm will still be bitter about the one that got away in the NRL Grand Final, having bombed several chances to get the better of Cronulla late in the game but failing to capitalise on any.
Since returning to Belmore in 2015 the Bulldogs have played four games in front of their supporters but have only won one of those.
The positive is that it was against Melbourne back in late 2015 but since then they lost to the Sharks, Raiders and Cowboys with the latter two being last season.
Funnily enough it was the Dogs who was one of those rare sides that actually boasted a better record away (8-4) than what they did at home (6-6), with the balance of their home efforts played at ANZ Stadium.
NEW FACES BUT SMITH AND CRONK REMAIN
Craig Bellamy’s side have had all off-season to ponder over their Grand Final loss but go into this season as one of the premiership favourites.
Champion fullback Billy Slater is still missing with Young Tonumaipea taking over the fullback role from Cameron Munster, who has joined Cooper Cronk in the halves after the departure of Blake Green.
Once again it will be Cronk and Cameron Smith that will be instrumental to the chances of the Storm. That will be even more so this year with the departures of key figures Marika Koroibete and Kevin Proctor just to name a few.
Melbourne don’t have too many bogey teams but they have found one in Canterbury.
The dogs have won the past six clashes between the sides which includes an 18-12 win at AAMI Park last season – one of only two losses the Storm had all year at home.
If Canterbury are ever going to lift it’s going to be for this game.
They crashed out of finals contention in weak fashion last year by losing four straight including their Qualifying Final against Penrith in Week One.
Hasler and the team have been heavily scrutinised by fans and punters alike especially since their recruitment hasn’t really managed to sign any big names aside from Brenko Lee and Tony Williams.
The key will be how halves Josh Reynolds and Moses Mbye click. One vital lead-in for punters in this match could be the dogs’ poor starts in recent years which has seen them win just one Round 1 fixture since 2013 and that was last season.
Alternatively the Storm have an incredible opening round record in which they haven’t lost since 2001.
That alone gives them a tremendous chance here, and the balance of power, as it indicates that Bellamy has his team fit, firing and ready to go in the opening rounds.
MATCH WINNER TIP: MELBOURNE STORM
FIRST TRYSCORER: SULIASI VUNIVALU
MARGIN BETTING: MELBOURNE STORM 1-12
OTHER TIP: BRETT MORRIS TO SCORE A TRY