With the season opener just around the corner we look at how Melbourne Storm will go in 2021.
After justifying their favouritism in the 2020 NRL Grand Final against Penrith, the Storm are looking to come back and defend their title in the same comprehensive manner.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
SigningsEmbed from Getty Images
Jake Howarth (until 2022), George Jennings (New Zealand Warriors, 2022), Jonah Pezet (2023), Reimis Smith (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, 2022), Tagiolupe Tivalu (2022).
Sandor Earl (retired), Tino Fa’asuamaleaui (Gold Coast Titans), Ricky Leutele (Huddersfield Giants), Paul Momirovski (Penrith Panthers), Albert Vete (Hull Kingston Rovers), Suliasi Vunivalu (rugby union).
South Sydney Rabbitohs (Home), Parramatta Eels (Away), Penrith Panthers (Away), Brisbane Broncos (Home), Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs (Away).
WHAT TO EXPECT
Expect much of the same from the Storm this season despite all-but losing their talismanic leader Cameron Smith. That said, the Storm will still run it back with one of the best of coaches of all time: Craig Bellamy; he probably has even more motivation given his potential departure after the 2021 NRL season.Embed from Getty Images
Despite Smith turning the pre-season build up into a game of ‘will-he-won’t-he’ retirement version, Melbourne appear to be unfazed by the media storm. Regardless of whether Smith is done or not, Melbourne get Harry Grant back from his loan spell at the Wests Tigers and he now partners Brandon Smith to complete a great hooking committee at the club.Embed from Getty Images
Melbourne have also maintained the core of their pack and will no doubt reap the rewards of the continuity of a grand final-winning group of forwards. While they will miss their talismanic leader if Smith retires, Melbourne have plenty of experience to lead the side and have named Dale Finucane and Jesse Bromwich as co-captains for 2021: the first time Melbourne have appointed a new captain since Smith took over the role in 2005.Embed from Getty Images
Both in finals footy, and then the ensuing Origin series off the back of a post-grand final bender, Cam Munster showed his exceptional quality in guiding both sides to tremendous wins and seems to be only getting better with every season: he is a generational talent. Last year’s Clive Churchill Medal winner, Ryan Papenhuyzen was unplayable at times last year and any progression from him at fullback should make the playmaking division at the Storm extremely successful. In fact, it is hard to fault any aspect of the Storm.Embed from Getty Images
Melbourne’s opening five fixtures will provide a perfect barometer for their season prospects, with the Storm hosting competition second-favourites the South Sydney Rabbitohs. They then travel to Parramatta before facing competition favourites Penrith at Panthers Stadium in round three, which will give them the perfect test for this new look and likely Cameron Smith-less season. The Storm should then have lighter tests against the Brisbane Broncos and Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs in rounds four and five respectively.
A perfect five from five and they should be well on their way to another grand final berth, which is well within their reach given the quality they posses all over the pitch that is guided by one of the best coaches to grace the NRL.
FEARLESS PREDICTIONSEmbed from Getty Images
Top Tryscorer – Josh Addo-Carr
Top Pointscorer – Ryan Papenhuyzen
Club Player of the Year – Cameron Munster