Monday 18 December 2017 / 04:44 AM

MELBOURNE STORM SEASON REVIEW

The Storm were the defensive benchmark and were consistently great all year, dropping just five games prior to the finals to take out the minor premiership for the first time since 2011. They weren’t as slick in the finals but still reached the grand final, where another herculean defensive effort and a stirring second-half fight-back almost saw them beat the Sharks, but ultimately they fell short by just two points.

The Highlight

Winning the minor premiership at home in Round 26. They came up against Cronulla in a final-round match that would hand top spot to the victor. The Storm had lost two of their last three games, but they weathered the Sharks’ attacking raids to pull out an emphatic 20-point victory.

The Lowlight

A late-season loss to Brisbane showed major chinks in the Storm’s armoury. After bouncing back from a loss to Canberra with a 38-18 victory over Manly, the Storm were very poor playing at home against the resurgent Broncos – who they traditionally have a dominant record against – in a 26-16 defeat.

Studs

Cameron Munster. The fullback, who was the fill-in for the injured Billy Slater, made the role his own. Reliable, fast, a strong ball runner and very safe hands, had a great season. Rookie winger made his debut in Round 7 and by the end of the year had scored 23 tries in a stunning debut season. Cooper Cronk was joint winner of his second Dally M, while Cameron Smith finished equal-third in the medal count and Jesse Bromwich picked up the Prop of the Year gong after another monster campaign.

Duds

As is the Storm’s way, there genuinely wasn’t a player that didn’t perform to or above their potential in 2016.

Promise in store

The 20-year-old Vunivalu had an amazing debut season, leading the NRL’s tryscoring tally and setting a new club record with 23 in 20 games. Giant forward Nelson Asofa-Solomona showed great promise in his second year before injury ended his season, while fellow sophomore forwards Christian Welch and Felise Kaufusi took their opportunities with both hands.

Best Win

Round 17 – 48-6 v Brisbane. The Storm travelled up to Brisbane and absolutely belted the Broncos. They were clinical and methodical, completely outplaying Brisbane in every aspect of the game.

Worst Loss

Round 6 – 18-12 v Canterbury. The Storm hosted the Bulldogs and were very sluggish from start to finish. They were completely out of sync and looked like they may struggle during the year, but it preceded a seven-match winning streak.

Injury Impact

The Storm lost Billy Slater for the season after Round 1, which had the potential to completely derail their season, however Munster steadied the ship from the outset. Asofa-Solomona was cut down during the finals to end a season that was regularly hampered by injury, Will Chambers missed three months of the campaign, Jordan McLean had a seven-match stint on the sidelines, and promising utility Slade Griffin managed just one game.

Off-field Atrocities

The Storm have long been a well-disciplined side off the field, a trend which continued in 2016.

The Coach

Craig Bellamy is undoubtedly the premier coach in the competition today, resurrecting Cheyse Blair to uphold his reputation as the code’s greatest career doctor. He still has a few more seasons left and looks to be the safest coach in the competition. The culture he has implemented at the Storm is unparalleled.

Recruitment Radar

The Storm picked up wing speedster Josh Addo-Carr from Wests Tigers to replace the departing Marika Koroibete. Addo-Carr is one of, if not the fastest player in the game and will continue to allow the Storm to have genuine strike on both wings. Utility-back Jahrome Hughes is a handy pick-up and could duel with fellow recruit Ryley Jacks for the five-eighth spot vacated by Blake Green. Ben Hampton is the only other member of the Storm’s grand final 17 leaving.

Dream Recruit

Jack Bird. The Sharks centre is capable of playing brilliantly at five-eighth and in the back row. He’s hard to get down, creative with the ball in hand and has a great running game.

2017 Prospects

The Storm continue to have the perfect mix of youth and experience – not to mention to of the greatest match-winners of all time – which will see them remain a genuine title contender again next year. An inevitable decline has been predicted for a few years now, but their 2016 efforts doused the doomsayers once and for all. From a line-up perspective, Cameron Munster’s spot in the team – should Billy Slater return – is the most intriguing question.

2016 Summary

1st place – Won 19, Lost 5; For 563 (=4th), Against 302 (1st); minor premiers and grand final runners-up.

[YouTube – VAC 2016]

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About the author

Andrew Ferguson

A rugby league historian and stats buff – most notably as the brains behind the phenomenal Rugby League Project resource – Melbourne-based Andrew has written extensively for Rugby League Review and the Men of League magazine, and is a valued addition to CBS’s rugby league stable.

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