The Wests Tigers will have to overcome one of the NRL’s greatest hoodoos when they play the Storm on Sunday in Melbourne.
The Tigers have won just once on 11 occasions in the Victorian capital, a daunting record against the second-placed Storm who will have Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith backing up from their State of Origin duties.
Cameron Munster and Blake Green also return to coach Craig Bellamy’s Melbourne side after missing their loss to St George Illawarra last week, which also came without their representative players.
NSW hooker Robbie Farah will miss the game after suffering concussion on Wednesday night in the Blues’ Origin II loss. Dene Halatau was named to start at No.9 for the visitors with Farah on the bench. Elijah Taylor will likely fill in as back-up dummy-half.
In the Tigers’ favour is the fact that their sole win in Melbourne has come at Sunday’s venue, AAMI Park, where they have played just twice. The two teams have not clashed down south since Melbourne’s win in 2013.
But the Tigers have struggled on the road recently only winning three of their past 13 away matches.
The last time the Storm had their full complement of players, they humiliated the Sydney Roosters 46-0. The Tigers had the bye last weekend, but enjoyed a morale-boosting victory over South Sydney the week prior.
Tigers coach Jason Taylor was under no illusion about the challenge ahead of his side.
“It is probably the toughest game of the season for us in regards to the opposition on their home ground,” Taylor said on Saturday.
“They have been in great form but we have trained well; we have had a break to get ourselves some extra time to get ready.
“We want to show the progress we have made, not just over the last 18 months, but in particular the last six weeks.
“We are feeling confident about the challenge.”
The Tigers have won four of their past six games.
Melbourne triumphed in the side’s last encounter, a 19-18 golden-point victory in round seven at Leichhardt Oval .
“The number one thing we took out of that match is the belief we can beat this side,” Taylor said.
The former Parramatta and South Sydney mentor said Farah’s omission was “purely about putting the welfare of our players first”.
Tigers skipper and NSW prop Aaron Woods would play, Taylor said.
* Melbourne have struggled in past seasons backing up after Origin, winning just two of seven post-Origin matches stretching back to 2014
* Melbourne have already held three opponents to nil this season, equalling their best tally set in 2008
* Defence has been an issue for the Tigers this season, conceding the second-most points at 25.1 per game, the second-most tries (4.4 per game) and are tied third with Penrith for the most line breaks conceded at 5.5 per game
Source: Fox Sports Stats