THE Melbourne Storm are damn near untouchable. They have a legendary spine, an insanely potent backline, forwards that dominate for 80 minutes without a hitch and depth as deep as a black hole.
No matter what teams throw at the Craig Bellamy-led minor premiers, purple power always seems to reign supreme in the end.
Their latest offering, a 64-6 demolition of the hapless South Sydney Rabbitohs, was just brutal. Cronk and Slater were in sync, Cameron Smith was his typical self, Cameron Munster was on fire, their forwards were relentless and those wingers, well, they speak for themselves.
It’s nearly unfair how good the Melbourne Storm are. Love them or hate them, they’re the globetrotters of the NRL if you will.
It’s impossible to put your finger on why the Storm are as good as they are. They are extremely well polished with class in every position.
So lets take a look at the outstanding players in key positions (and although wing is not usually a key position, two Fijian flyers have ensured it’s become one.)
Clash of the flyers
Suliasi Vunivalu – 22 games, 22 tries, 5 try assists, 89 of 125 tackles for a 71% success rate, average of 13 runs for 135m per game, 27 errors and 6 penalties conceded.
Semi Radradra – 23 games, 17 tries, 5 try assists, 98 of 131 tackles for a 75% success rate, average of 14 runs for 148 metres per game, 33 errors and 1 penalty conceded.
Experience versus youth
Cooper Cronk – 18 games, 6 tries, 13 try assists, 260 of 292 tackles for an 89% success rate, average of 9 runs for 60m per game, 10 errors and 11 penalties conceded.
Mitchell Moses – 23 games, 4 tries, 10 try assists, 359 of 455 tackles for a 79% success rate, average of 9 runs for 61m per game, 23 errors and 9 penalties conceded.
Locks lock horns
Dale Finucane – 23 games, 3 tries, 1 try assist, 766 of 809 tackles for a 95% success rate, average of 13 runs for 105m per game, 11 errors and 5 penalties conceded.
Nathan Brown – 22 games, 1 try, 1 try assist, 760 of 815 tackles for a 93% success rate, average of 18 runs for 154m per game, 8 errors and 18 penalties conceded.
Stats don’t tell the full story, but those are impressive. The two Fijian giants will match up against each other, which is mouth watering to say the least, and it’s hard to pick a winner.
Both are freakish, both are lightning fast, both can jump, both are powerful enough to rock a prop, and both are try scoring geniuses.
In the halves department, it’s clear that Cronk is extremely valuable and has the wood over his younger opponent. If the Eels are to trouble Melbourne, they have to shut down Cooper by sending forwards at him all night.
That brings me to the locks. For me, they’ve been the two teams best players this year. Finucane is arguably the hardest working player in the NRL. His numbers are impressive, but so are Nathan Brown’s.
Their running battle will be a treat, and no doubt Brown will place a huge target on Cooper and Slater as they look to weave their magic up the middle of the field, as they so often do.
I can’t see any other teams genuinely troubling Melbourne. When I break it down, the Eels seem to be the only ones who could pip them for the premiership. But they have to get their first and there is still a huge question mark over whether they can.
It’s kind of like at Wimbledon. Only two men could really trouble Roger Federer: Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal and they couldn’t get to the final encounter. But rest assured if they did, it could have been a very different story for Roger.
I view the NRL Premiership this year in similar light. While the Eels are my pick for an upset title win, getting there is a whole different ball game.
They seem to be lackadaisical against teams they’re expected to beat, but turn up for others.
Really though, I think it’s elementary. Melbourne Storm will be the 2017 NRL premiers.