Coach challenges Dragons to dominate Storm

Dragons coach Paul McGregor expects much from his side against the Storm despite Origin absentees. (AAP)

St George coach Paul McGregor has lost five players to State of Origin but believes his side can upset NRL powerhouse Melbourne.

St George Illawarra coach Paul McGregor has challenged his young guns to become "dominant players" when they host NRL premierships favourites Melbourne on Thursday.

The teams are without a combined without 11 players due to State of Origin duties, with the playmaking stocks the most severely effected.

The Dragons lose five players, including halves Ben Hunt and Corey Norman, which brings in Jai Field and Darren Nicholls - who have just eight NRL games' experience between them.

They'll also miss NSW trio Tyson Frizell, Paul Vaughan and Tariq Sims, with the latter scratched from Origin on Tuesday after getting a ban at the judiciary.

McGregor said the round 16 clash presented an opportunity for his up-and-coming first graders to leave their mark.

"I'm quite confident. It's a good opportunity for the players. It's their time to put it on the line so to speak," McGregor said.

"It is a challenge upon themselves and a good chance to see, as a coach and as a player, where you stand in these situations.

"If it was me as a young player, I would see it as a great opportunity to lead the way. These guys have now played 30-plus first-grade games.

"They're experienced enough, for this time of year, to be a dominant player, not just a player on the football field.

"So I'd like to see it and they'll want to deliver and they will deliver."

Melbourne are six points clear at the top of the table after riding a six-game winning streak through the Origin period, despite it once again depleting their squad.

Storm coach Craig Bellamy said St George posed a threat and admitted there were several unknowns with so many players missing.

"We've got six in (Origin) and they've got five in, so it changes things around a lot," Bellamy said.

"Having said that they've still got some really experienced players, Cameron McInnes is basically a seasoned campaigner now and I think their centres are terrific players.

"A couple of their forwards have been playing plenty of footy and been around for a long time.

"Both sides are weakened by Origin but they've got some guys who can really step up and play some good footy, so I still think it's going to be a good contest."

Melbourne skipper Cameron Smith will play his record-extending 399th NRL game.

Source AAP

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