Melbourne Storm Position: 4th (Knocked out finals week 3)
Record (W-L-D): 14-10-0
Top Pointscorer: Cameron Smith – 146
Top Tryscorer: Marika Koroibete – 16
After having their title ambitions written off by most experts, the Melbourne Storm managed to secure a top four position and were only one win away from a grand final appearance. Despite ‘The Big Three’ ageing, their experience amongst a youthful squad was integral as they answered their critics.
The Storm were able to mix it with the best teams in the competition throughout the campaign but were often exploited by teams near the bottom of the table. Melbourne was able to produce their best football as the finals series approached with impressive wins against the Sharks, Cowboys and Broncos before an upset win against the Roosters in the first week of finals.
Despite their strong end to the season, Melbourne’s campaign looked as though it would fall apart during the Origin period as Smith, Cronk, Slater and Chambers represented Queensland. Without these stars, the Storm lost five games and had only one win. A 20-4 loss against the Bulldogs at Belmore was particularly disappointing.
While there isn’t a shortage of superstars at the Storm, Cooper Cronk was the standout with 17 try assists this season. The halfback injured his knee during the Origin period leading to not only Melbourne but also Queensland struggling without his composure and creativity. His return for Melbourne after the last Origin game proved crucial to their season as the Storm were able to string a few wins together.
With Mann, Hinchcliffe, Duffie, Weston and Fonua all leaving the Storm next season, coach Craig Bellamy will hope that new recruits Matt White and Mark Nicholls can add strength and depth to the forward pack. Melbourne will miss Hinchcliffe’s experience especially during the Origin period when he deputises at hooker for Smith. Replacing him will be an important task during the off-season.
While the season has been better than expected for Melbourne, the club would be disappointed with their performance in the preliminary final against the Cowboys. The young squad will be better for the experience they gained this season. This should help the club navigate the difficult Origin period and help them gain composure in close matches.