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2022 Melbourne Storm Team Preview

After coming agonisingly close to a fifth grand final appearance in six years, how will 2022 treat the Storm?

2022 STORM SQUAD

Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Jesse Bromwich, Kenny Bromwich, Xavier Coates, Thomas Eisenhuth, Bronson Garlick, Cole Geyer, Harry Grant, Jordan Grant, Jack Howarth, Jahrome Hughes, Dean Ieremia, George Jennings, Cooper Johns, Tui Kamikamica, Felise Kaufusi, Josh King, Chris Lewis, Trent Loiero, Nick Meaney, Tepai Moeroa, Cameron Munster, Jayden Nikorima, Justin Olam, Ryan Papenhuyzen, Jonah Pezet, Marion Seve, Brandon Smith, Reimis Smith, Will Warbrick, Christian Welch, Tyran Wishart.

KEY SIGNING

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To most teams, losing a player of the calibre of Josh Addo-Carr would be a massive blow. But the Storm have only gone ahead and replaced him with Xavier Coates, who at just 21 years old is already firmly entrenched in the Queensland squad and will likely push for selection in the Kangaroos’ World Cup side. Coates scored just over a try every two games with the Broncos and will surely be relishing the chance to finish off set pieces from the Storm’s all-star spine.

All signings: Nick Meaney (Bulldogs, 2023), Xavier Coates (Broncos, 2023), Josh King (Knights, 2023), William Warbrick (NZ rugby sevens, 2023), Jayden Nikorima (Redcliffe, 2022).

KEY PLAYER

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As we saw in 2021, how the Storm perform on a week-by-week basis depends heavily on what version of Cameron Munster takes the field. On his day, he is easily the best five-eighth in rugby league, but when he’s out of sync with the rest of his team the Storm become a much worse attacking team – as exemplified in their preliminary final loss to the Panthers.

While Melbourne can rely on a bunch of other attacking weapons- namely Ryan Papenhuyzen and Jahrome Hughes – Munster is the one who ties the team together. His chemistry with Josh Addo-Carr made them one of the most prolific double acts of the NRL era. With the Foxx now at Belmore, Munster will have to adapt his game to suit the strengths of his replacement, the aforementioned Xavier Coates.

With the loss of Nicho Hynes, the Storm will need Munster’s guidance more than ever this season. If Munster can recapture his form that saw him dominate in 2020, Melbourne will be a great chance of getting back to the grand final.

PLAYER TO WATCH

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With Brandon Smith almost certainly moving to lock to cover for the loss of Dale Finucane, Melbourne’s number 14 jersey is wide open, and as it stands Tyran Wishart seems poised to waltz into the role. Wishart’s talent as a utility, as well as being the son of Steelers legend Rod, has seen him touted as a future NRL player through the junior ranks – and after leaving St George Illawarra for Melbourne in June 2021, he will likely get that chance.

With Harry Grant and Brandon Smith both suspended for round one, Wishart will likely make his NRL debut in the run-on side. But once both return, Wishart will be expected to make the number 14 jersey his own. And given how Melbourne’s most recent number 14 developed, he might be a name we hear about for some time.

DRAW

Tigers (A), Rabbitohs (H), Eels (H), Bulldogs (H), Raiders (A), Sharks (H), Warriors (H), Knights (A), Dragons (H), Panthers (Magic Round), Cowboys (A), Sea Eagles (H), Roosters (A), Broncos (H), Sea Eagles (A), Sharks (A), Raiders (H), Rabbitohs (A), Warriors (A), Titans (H), Panthers (A), Broncos (A), Roosters (H), Eels (A)

PREVIEW

The fact that the Storm came so close to winning the premiership in 2021, their first season without future Immortal Cameron Smith, should inspire confidence in the team to get back to the promised land this season. However, key departures, namely Dale Finucane, Josh Addo-Carr and Nicho Hynes, leave a question mark over the immediate future of the team.

One thing I’ve learned watching the NRL, however, is you can never count out a side coached by Craig Bellamy. With the talent they have, particularly in their spine, this side is once again a genuine premiership contender, and remains the benchmark that every team should aim to beat.

Furthermore, this is a Last Dance of sorts for the Storm, with the Bromwich brothers and Felise Kaufusi set to depart after this season. This means that of the 17 players who lined up for the Storm in the 2017 grand final, the only ones that will remain are Cameron Munster and, for now at least, Nelson Asofa-Solomona. If there was ever a time for Melbourne to go all in on a season, this could be it.

All things considered, Melbourne will spend 2022 the same way they’ve spent almost all of the last 16 years – at the top of the table. Whether they can be better than the likes of the Roosters and the Panthers, however… that’s what we’re looking forward to seeing.

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