Current ladder position: 6th
Points differential: +24
Run Home: Knights (A), Sharks (H), Panthers (A), Roosters (A), Broncos (H)
‘The finals fighters’ is a term most fitting to the Victorian side that can make a finals appearance no matter the circumstances. And if it weren’t for the Manly Sea Eagles and their last ten years, they’d have it all to themselves. When promoted to the NRL in 1999, the representatives of the southern state won the premiership in their first season. Since their rise to the top they have experienced multiple minor premierships, a premiership in 2012, and not to mention the 2007 and 2009 premierships, which were eventually stripped as part of a salary cap breach.
Along with a team that is still very intact with their glory days, the names of explosive youngsters Marika Koroibete and Young Tonumaipea appear all throughout the club’s website when it comes to Tuesday lunchtime. Not to mention the up-and-coming centers pairing of Will Chambers and Mahe Founa along with powerful forwards Ryan Hoffman and Jesse Bromwich.
Last year the Melbourne Storm’s finals journey made headlines for all the wrong reasons when the Newcastle Knights caused the upset of the tournament with a 36-12 victory that saw supercoach Wayne Bennett’s team into the semi finals.
So what separates the Melbourne Storm from what we saw last season? How can we be assured they have the potential of taking their game one extra step this season?
Whenever writing an article on our southern neighbours in the NRL, it’s almost impossible to go past the big three of Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater. And how about this year’s end of the 8-year Queensland dynasty on the origin stage, something Cronk, Smith and Slater have never experienced before.
If we learnt anything from the Melbourne Storm salary cap breach, it’s that when the big three are down in the dumps, they rise higher than ever before. Their minor premiership in 2011, premiership in 2012 and quarter finals appearance in 2013 is a living and breathing example of what the big three live by and what the club’s values are built around.
Melbourne has a reasonably balanced road to the finals. 3 out of their last 5 games are to be played on the road, with the challenging games against reigning premiers the Sydney Roosters and one against the highly impressive Penrith Panthers. To ease the tension, starting next week they have games against a recently-crushed Newcastle side and a Cronulla outfit in well contention for the wooden spoon.
At the moment I’d rate the Melbourne Storm semi-finals worthy. They’ve struggled to find their consistency throughout the season, but after what I saw on Monday against the Tigers I believe they have finally broken off from that label. Whether they are worthy of success in their semi-finals clash looks to be further justified over the following rounds.