Despite a host of big name Origin players missing, the Storm and Cowboys put on a highly entertaining match at AAMI Park in Melbourne, where the home side got home in golden point 23-22.

The Cowboys were the dominant team for the first 30 minutes leading 10-0 thanks to Kyle Feldt’s one try and three goals, but the Storm hung in there and scored just half time to trail 10-6.

The Cowboys scored  first in the second half, but a dominant period for the Storm halfway through the second half saw them turn that 14-6 deficit into a 22-14 lead by the 60th minute. The Cowboys scored a try and a very late penalty goal to push the game into golden point, which ultimately fell in the Storm’s favour when young Brodie Croft slotted the winning field goal.

Onto the four talking points from the very entertaining match.

Intrust Super Cup proves its worth during Origin time.

According to those in the know on Social Media, 30 of the 34 players on the field for the Cowboys and Storm have played in the Intrust Super Cup showcasing that despite its second tier stature its tough competition makes it a great vehicle to bring players into the NRL.

Melbourne are almost without peer in the NRL for using unknown or discarded players from other clubs, and have relied upon the Intrust Super Cup for their player’s apprenticeship in the past. First with Norths Devils (which brought through no less than the three big names missing due to Origin – Smith, Cronk, Slater) and then with Easts Tigers and lately the Sunshine Coast have joined the Tigers.

That is good news for up and coming players, who can look upon the graduation from the Intrust Super competitions as a great pathway and not worry if they are not plucked from the Under 20 teams. Although that is an obsolete point from next season as the Under 20’s is scrapped and players move into the various State based teams anyway.

Brodie Croft may take the plaudits with his match winning turn, Curtis Scott for his try scoring double, and Brandon Smith was also tremendous for the Storm. But the Cowboys five eighth Kyle Laybutt was also very good for the North Queenslanders, and showed his excellent form for the Townsville Blackhawks and tremendous effort for the Queensland Residents is just a taste of what is to come. Perhaps at minimum he is first choice when either Jonathan Thurston of Michael Morgan are injured in the future. He certainly looked a better prospect than Ray Thompson.

One last thing on the players from the Intrust Super competitions, when given a chance to show their wares most are usually well up to the standard. So it is a shame that so many get so few chances. Perhaps the argument of a player drain when talking of new teams isn’t quite as relevant these days. Add two new teams, reduce the amount of rounds, and have standalone Origin and you might just have enough quality to easily form two new teams.

The NRL got lucky with this game, and the talent on show, but they should really sort out the Origin time competition soon or risk losing players and interest. Origin is great, but it should not come at the quality of the rest of the competition for such along period. No other top line sporting competition in the world allows such an impact.

 

No Cooper Cronk, No Worries

Saturday night’s game could be looked upon as a bit of a dress rehearsal for both Ryley Jacks and Brodie Croft for the vacant halfback spot for 2017. And on the showing of Ryley Jacks this season and Brodie Croft in their 23-22 win, they are going to be well served either way when Cooper Cronk moves on at the end of the season.

The obvious choice will be the younger Brodie Croft, and he showed he was right up for it on Saturday night with his general being play excellent, and his field goal at the end was a little hint of future quality Melbourne could come to rely on in the future. Ryley Jacks meanwhile has proven he is up to NRL standard, and has been very handy for the Storm this season when given the chance.

Throw in the excellent Jahrome Hughes who is currently playing with the Sunshine Coast Falcons and can’t even get a game for the Storm during Origin time, and the Storm are very well served indeed for 2018 and beyond. They won’t be able to replace Cronk’s experience and reliability, but they do have a very good base to work from.

If the game proved something else, the Storm have some unbelievable depth everywhere heading into the business end of this year’s competition and into the future.

 

Some of Queensland Origin future stars were also on show too

Tim Glasby may have been the surprise selection for the Queensland Origin side for game Two, but his team mate Felise Kafusi must have been very close to selection given his form this year, and recently, and the fact he has already been an 18th man for Queensland in the past.

The big second rower is in great form for the Storm, and has scored plenty of tries and has been a handful for rival defences since his arrival in Melbourne colours. His defence is also not lacking, and surely he is the next forward selected for Queensland.

Cameron Munster too mustn’t be too far away from a call up either, and he continues to show his quality which included an excellent performance on Saturday night against the Cowboys. He also has appeared to have stepped up as a senior Storm player despite still really being in his formative years in the NRL. Once again you would think that he must be considered when the next outside back position for Queensland comes up.

 

There’s a worry for North Queensland without Jonathan Thurston

The last few months have proven that the Cowboys are a much less effective team without the superstar that is Thurston. That is pretty obvious as he is one of the best of all time. You only have to look back at last round in Darwin to see the transformation with him back in the side. Saturday night’s game was a little more proof that they are a little behind the Storm is the field of depth, and that will cost them if the Origin star gets one more injury in 2017.

Whilst you could argue that the Cowboys also had Michael Morgan and Gavin Cooper out which didn’t help on Saturday night, those players have been involved in the previous months of struggle without Thurston which doesn’t fill one with confidence if he has to sit out any more of the season. They’ll do well to make the Top 4 with him.

 

RESULT

MELBOURNE STORM 23
Tries: Curtis Scott (31m), Brandon Smith (52m), Curtis Scott (54m), Felise Kaufusi (58m)
Goals: Cameron Munster 3/4 Conv
Field Goal: Brodie Croft (84m)

NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS 22
Tries: Kyle Feldt (9m), Lachlan Coote (46m), Kane Linnett (78m)
Goals: Kyle Feldt 2/3 Conv, Kyle Feldt 3/3 Pens