Schick Hydro Preview: Canterbury Bulldogs v Melbourne Storm
Belmore Sports Ground
The 2012 grand finalists Melbourne and the Bulldogs will be motivated to kick-start their 2017 Telstra Premiership campaign with a strong opening win at Belmore.
For the Storm, their season redemption begins on the road as they seek to avenge last year's devastating grand final loss.
The Bulldogs will be equally hungry to earn victory over the 2016 runners-up after their disappointing elimination in week one of last year's finals series.
Canterbury will enjoy the advantage of having a familiar line-up to start the season whereas Melbourne will feature several new faces as well as new regular five-eighth Cameron Munster.
The key to victory against the Bulldogs is to nullify their physical forward pack but it will be a difficult task for the Storm without last year's second-row duo Kevin Proctor and Tohu Harris, with Proctor now at the Titans and Harris out injured.
There's been a lot of pressure in the off-season on the Bulldogs, so they will be eager to impress their home crowd at Belmore Sports Ground.
Why the Bulldogs can win: Canterbury's attack in 2016 was often criticised for its lack of creativity, especially in their halves combination of Josh Reynolds and Moses Mbye. But after an off-season heavily focused on their use of the ball, expect Reynolds and Mbye to have a more threatening partnership in combination with hooker Michael Lichaa. If their backline including the likes of Will Hopoate, Brett and Josh Morris can capitalise on the opportunities their big forward can create, it will make for a tough night for the Storm at Belmore.
Why the Storm can win: The Storm are fielding a different line-up but that doesn't mean Craig Bellamy's troops won't be prepared. The experience of Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk will go a long way to Melbourne finding their feet at Belmore. After an impressive Auckland Nines performance, Munster is ready to thrive as Cronk's new halves partner.
Key match-up: James Graham v Jesse Bromwich. Watching these two international forwards go at it is worth the price of admission alone. They are both ruthless, tough and persistent. They never let up. A key element of victory will come down to who leads their forward pack best. It'll be an old-school hit out.
The history: Played 37, Bulldogs 21, Storm 16. The Bulldogs hold the advantage here and will also take confidence from their 20-4 ambush of the Storm when they played the one time at Belmore in Round 16 2015.
Match officials: Gerard Sutton, Matt Noyen. Sideline Officials: Jeff Younis, Ziggy Przeklasa-Adamski. Video Referees: Jared Maxwell, Luke Patten.
Televised: Channel Nine - Live coverage from 7.30pm; Fox Sports 1 – Live coverage from 7.30pm.
NRL.com predicts: The one time they played in 2016, the Bulldogs sunk the Storm 18-12 in one of Melbourne's two losses at AAMI Park. This will be another close match but the Storm's experience will get them home in front of a raucous Belmore crowd.