The Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs will host the Melbourne Storm in their final trial match before the season begins at Belmore Sports Ground.
It will be the second year running that the two sides have clashed in a pre-season trial after the Bulldogs headed to Melbourne last year and fell short thanks to four late tries from the Storm giving them a 32-30 win.
Both sides come into this week’s trial following narrow losses the week before.
The Bulldogs went down to the Penrith Panthers after a last minute try to AFL convert Josh Hall, 24-20 and the Storm were defeated by the Wests Tigers, 18-16.
In what will be the final hit-out before the season proper for the Bulldogs and the Storm, Hasler has selected his strongest available side for the fixture. With Will Hopoate (knee) missing the match, new recruit Brad Abbey will get the opportunity to impress at fullback whilst Chase Stanley, Josh Reynolds, David Klemmer and Adam Elliott will make their first appearances for the year.
“I was pleased with what I saw last week but we’ll get to have a better look at the guys this week,” Hasler said. “I know guys like James (Graham), Josh (Reynolds), Josh (Morris) and David (Klemmer) are keen to get out there and play with the group for the first time this season.”
Meanwhile the Storm will be at near full strength minus Billy Slater who will miss due to an ongoing shoulder injury.
“We are very pleased to select a near full-strength Storm side in preparation for Round 1,” Storm Football Director Frank Ponissi told Storm TV.
“Saturday’s trial is important with a couple of positions up for grabs for Round 1, which is why Craig Bellamy has named an extended squad.”
Saturday’s match at Belmore will see plenty of great match-ups, including James Graham’s battle with Jesse Bromwich.
Graham by his own standards was disappointed with his 2015 season, but the Englishman made a statement in the 2016 NRL All Stars with a front-row masterclass and guiding the World All Stars to victory.
He ran for 176m and walked away with the Preston Campbell Medal for best on ground to set the tone for what Bulldogs members and fans can expect in 2016 from the skipper.
His opposite number Jesse Bromwich will have his first run in 2016 this weekend and after being crowned the Kiwis Player of the Year for his outstanding performances on the field in 2015, the 26 year old is looking forward to the battle on Saturday with the Bulldogs.
“It’s been good getting fit and ready for the season but I am really looking forward to this first trial, I can’t wait,” Bromwich told Storm TV.
“It is important for me to go into the game and try and lead for some of the young forwards in our team to try and pick up where I left off last year.”
Saturday will be a great day for Bulldogs members and fans who will see all three grades in action against the Melbourne Storm (North Sydney in NSW Cup) with gates opening at 11:40am.
Game times are as follows:
Gates open: 11:40am
NSW Cup: 3:00pm
Season Launch: 7:30pm