Rugby league returns to Melbourne for the first time in more than 500 days as two of the NRL's heavyweights go head to head.

The NRL season opens with a bang tonight at AAMI Park with what could possibly be a grand final preview between Melbourne Storm and South Sydney Rabbitohs.

This matchup is a mouth-watering proposition both on and off the field.

Two of the game’s greatest coaches, Craig Bellamy and Wayne Bennett are both are in red hot form.

The apprentice and the teacher.

Bellamy is fresh off his third premiership with Storm, while Bennett not only led the Rabbitohs to a close preliminary final loss against Penrith Panthers but also steered an undermanned Queensland outfit to a famous victory over New South Wales in the State of Origin in November.

Season 2021 could also be the last season the pair face off against each other with a decision yet to be made by Bellamy about his future with Storm while South Sydney will opt for a new coach in 2022, despite Bennett’s desire to continue coaching.

On the field, the Rabbitohs have had some major inclusions that will make them a formidable foe.

Namely former Gold Coast Titan Jai Arrow, Panthers winger Josh Mansour and West Tigers legend and experienced halfback Benji Marshall, while star fullback Latrell Mitchell returns from a season-ending hamstring injury.

Don’t forget Redfern junior Adam Reynolds is playing for a new contract at the club – a fire in the belly of a beast.

The Storm, however, remained relatively quiet in the recruitment department backing in the core nucleus of last year’s squad to go back to back.

They did add George Jennings from the Eels and Reimis Smith from the Bulldogs both of which will make their debut tonight.

History could be made tonight with the Rabbitohs first win in Melbourne a distinct possibility.

Without the now-retired Cameron Smith and injured rake Harry Grant, ‘hectic cheese’ Brandon Smith gets first go at the famous purple 9 with Tyson Smoothy an outside chance to make a stunning debut at the end of the game.

Since the Storm’s inception they have held a strong rivalry with the Rabbitohs, one that has grown more over recent years as both organisations have enjoyed successful periods.

However, despite their own success the Rabbitohs have never been able to win a game in Melbourne. And have come close many times in the southern capital.

Tonight’s match-up isn’t the only time these two teams will face of during the home and away season, with another game scheduled at Stadium Australia in round nine.

This result of this match has major implications for the rest of the season and could spark the rivalry of the year.

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