Melbourne overcame back-to-back play-off losses in 2018 and 2019 to produce a dominant finals showing and take the 2020 grand final spoils over minor premiership winners Penrith.
2020 Club Record
Competition Points: 32
2020 Player Achievements
Most Tries: Josh Addo-Carr (16)
Most Points: Cameron Smith (184)
In a season that seemed somewhat framed to be contrary to the strengths of Melbourne Storm, the Victorian side produced one of their best finals performances to date. The NRL’s gameplay was expected to be more fluid, with faster rucks, less penalty influence from a solitary referee, and the inaugural running of the ‘six again’ rule; they’re all factors that you would consider detractions to the wrestle-heavy and modular Storm game, yet Craig Bellamy’s side adapted and executed to arguably their highest level yet.
Melbourne had already bagged a brace of wins, away at Manly and Cronulla, before the COVID-19 break catalysed the crucial rule changes that seemed to define the season. The Storm came out of the break and served up a poor performance against a rampant Canberra Raiders side, prompting suggestions that they couldn’t cut the new form of the game, but subsequent wins against Souths and Newcastle soon dampened such claims.
Penrith renewed doubts with a come from behind win, before the Storm notched eight successes on the bounce to ultimately tee themselves up for another playoff berth by winning four of their remaining six games.
Their second-placed finish in the regular season saw Melbourne host Paramatta and comprehensively avenge the round 15 loss that saw the Eels end the Storm’s eight-game winning streak.
The win afforded them a home preliminary final – albeit at Suncorp – against their 2019 finals adversaries Canberra. Having lost to them earlier in the season in the meeting following their 2019 finals loss, Melbourne put the game away in just over 22 minutes by racking up a 24-0 lead, from which they could game-manage their way to a 30-10 scoreline and consequently a grand final berth.
Melbourne made their fourth grand final in the past five years and started much the same way as they did in their preliminary final, blowing out Penrith 22-0 in the first half. Melbourne managed to hang on to win 26-20, despite a very late and intense comeback from the minor premier Panthers, in what was an impressive end to an extremely novel season.
Despite picking up an injury in his AC joint whilst scoring a try against Newcastle, Cameron Smith still finished fourth in the Dally M voting and won Dally M Hooker of The Year yet again. He finished Melbourne’s top point scorer and joint-top in try assists, all achieved in a season where the rules supposedly may not have suited the way he played the game.
Josh Addo-Carr also made his mark in the Dally M awards, clinching a wing spot in the team of the year. Arguably their most impressive performer at the crunch end of the season, however, was Ryan Papenhuyzen; he never failed to amaze with his performances throughout the season, but stepped up to another level in the grand final and was rewarded with the Clive Churchill Medal.
NothingButLeague Player of the Season
It goes without saying that there were several exceptional contributions throughout the squad in this championship-winning team, but Cameron Munster was a pivotal part of the Melbourne side and ultimately helped to bolster and catalyse the rampant attack that won them the competition at the back end of the season. He only seems to be getting better after playing a key part in the Maroons’ State of Origin win, so it will be exciting to see what he can bring to the table next season.
2021 GAINS AND LOSSES
Sandor Earl (Retired), Tino Fa’asuamaleaui (Gold Coast Titans), Ricky Leutele (Toronto Wolfpack), Paul Momirovski (Wests Tigers), Albert Vete (Hull Kingston Rovers), Suliasi Vunivalu (Rugby Union).