History suggests the Penrith Panthers are looking down the barrell of their most difficult fixture to date this season. When the Melbourne Storm rolls into Sydney's west the air will be thick with tension, and here's why;
Penrith have won only 1 of their last 14 matches against Melbourne.
That's by far and away their worst record against any team in the last decade. It's alarming. It's ominous. It's hard to swallow. It'll be difficult to turn around.
Couple that with an abhorrent injury toll that just doesn't want to end and Round 13, essentially the halfway mark of the season, is pivotal in the Panthers tilt at finals footy.
The Black Hole
The absence of Matt Moylan was clear last week after he was forced from the field barely minutes into the match against Parramatta. The combination between Jamie Soward and Peter Wallace will need to click despite only having had one game back together if Penrith are a chance at scoring any respectable number of points.
A New Hope
Dallin Watene-Zelezniak has been a regular in the first grade squad this season, and with good reason. Not only has he shown us that he can play anywhere in the backline, but he's picked up solid metres week in, week out and has improved his reliability in defence. Despite all this Saturday night will be the most exciting for the youngster in first grade - he'll be playing in his natural position of fullback.
Sure, he got to play an impromptu match there last week, but Saturday night poses as his rebirth in rugby league despite being so early in his career.
He's a very different kind of fullback to Moylan. There'll be less passing and less kicking, but there'll be big metres, tackle breaks all over the joint and probably a try or two!
Really, it's so difficult to see Penrith winning against the Storm based on the form ledger. It's been almost a decade to the day that Penrith last scored more than 20 points in a match against Melbourne and the Storm rarely put poor performances back-to-back.
But, as always this season, there's something a little different about the Panthers and for that reason I can see another absolutely heart wrenching finish falling in our favour.
As long as Penrith don't fall more than a converted try behind, there's points in this match for the taking!