Dogs wary of wounded Storm

Canterbury coach Des Hasler says Melbourne are the masters of the ambush and his side are wary of the Storm wanting to make a point without superstars Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk.

The Storm are in the midst of a mini-slump and received another blow on Sunday when halfback Cooper Cronk was ruled out from making an early NRL return.

Cronk was a chance to make a comeback from a knee injury, in a bid to prove his fitness for the July 8 State of Origin decider, however the Storm elected not to risk him.

After being widely tipped to finally come back to the pack this year, after being the competition’s most dominant side for a decade, the Storm started season 2015 strongly.

However since round 8 they have fallen flat. They have lost their last two and have won just three of their last seven.

In their loss to the Broncos last week they managed just two tries despite having a mountain of possession inside the opposition 20-metre zone and forcing a mammoth 11 drop outs.

They lacked spark without Cronk and fullback Slater (shoulder) and will need more direction from halves Blake Green and Ben Hampton against the Dogs.

Hasler said he would not write off a champion side and it was dangerous to underestimate them.

“There’s always a fear of being ambushed in our own backyard,” Hasler said.

“Melbourne are experts at it and they’re coming off a loss last week so they’ll want to make amends for that.

“It will make it a tough night and a pretty gritty game of footy.”

The game is being played at the Bulldogs’ spiritual home of Belmore Oval, the first premiership match to be played there since 1998.

Hasler denied captain James Graham was a chance to make an early return from a hamstring injury and was still a few weeks off.

He said he planned to use Josh Reynolds off the bench again this week, after the former NSW five-eighth was surpassed by youngster Moses Mbye in the pecking order.

The Bulldogs have a psychological advantage over the Storm having won their past four encounters, the the margin in each 24 points or more.

Hasler played down talk of his side having the wood over the Storm and said you couldn’t read too much into their record.

“It’s probably just the time of year that we play against them,” Hasler said.

“It’s probably the way the two sides play and I think both sides have a lot of respect for each other.”


* After a poor first 10 rounds the Bulldogs have won three of their past four matches.

* Melbourne’s 16 wins from 35 games against the Bulldogs is its worst record against any current opponent and the only current team they have a losing record against.

* Curtis Rona has been the first try-scorer on six occasions this year.

* All Offers and Promotions posted in this article excludes NSW residents.
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