After a decade at the top, 2014 saw a very different Melbourne Storm side. They struggled to really put teams away and finished in 6th position with a 14-10 record. Their limp 28-4 defeat by the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs in week one of the finals was something rugby league fans have not seen for a while. The loss of second rower Ryan Hoffman is a big blow and they have not been overly active on the player market, relying on the class of an ageing Billy Slater, Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith to remain competitive.
Craig Bellamy has made a habit of turning ordinary players into very good players, and while Leahroyd-Lars is far from ordinary,after 10 seasons and 119 games in the top grade, he really hasn’t kicked on after representing NSW 4 times in 2009 and 2010, and Australia 4 times in 2010. Add to that his 4 games for country and 3 appearances for the indigenous All Stars and you get a sense that there is a great player in there somewhere and Bellamy might just be the coach to unleash Leahroyd-Lars’ true potential.
The Storm have turned to a well-travelled five eighth to partner Cooper Cronk in the halves in 2015. Blake Green made his debut for the Parramatta Eels way back in 2007 before he spent two seasons at the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks and one season at the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs. In 2011 he moved overseas for a two-season stint with Hull KR and he spent 2013 and 2014 with glamour club Wigan. That wealth of experience will be invaluable for the Storm, particularly around the gruelling Origin period. It’s important that Green doesn’t try to overplay his hand and keep his game simple, letting the big 3 run the show.
Nona will battle it out with Blake Green to partner Cronk in the halves, and with no NRL experience to date, may start the year in the NSW Cup. A talented five-eighth, he spent part of 2014 playing for Tully, in far north Queensland, before leading the Northern Pride to the Intrust Super Cup title followed up by an inaugural State Championship triumph. He is a bit of an unknown, but at 24, and on a one-year deal, needs to impress at his new club and this could bring out the best in him.