The Newsroom previews each team for the 2015 National Rugby League season. Today, the Melbourne Storm.
The Melbourne Storm have long been the benchmark of the NRL, but after failing short of the grand final in the past two season, is this finally the year the Storms take a back seat?
Last season – 6th
In: Blake Green (Wigan Warriors, English Super League), Tom Learoyd-Lahrs (Canberra Raiders), Shaun Nona (Queensland Cup), Dale Finucane (Canterbury Bulldogs)
Out: Mitchell Garbutt (Brisbane Broncos), Ryan Hoffman (New Zealand Warriors), Matthew Lodge (Wests Tigers), Ben Roberts (Castleford, English Super League), Cody Walker (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Sisa Waqa, Rhys Kennedy (Canberra Raiders), Bryan Norrie (retired), George Rose (St George Illawarra Dragons), Joel Romelo (Queensland Cup), Justin O’Neill (North Queensland Cowboys)
Strengths: The big three. Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater have dominated the competition for the best part of a decade and although they are ageing, they still remain a threat for opposition sides and a great asset for the Storm.
Weaknesses: A lot of talent, but outside the aforementioned players, the Storm do not possess much experience in their squad. The loss of Ryan Hoffman does not help the cause. Last season they choked in the big matches. Too much reliance on Smith, Cronk and Slater affects the team during the Origin period as it amplifies the lack of maturity and experience.
Key player: Arguably the greatest hooker to ever play the game, captain Cameron Smith is preparing for his 13th season with the club. The master tactician has been at the forefront for all the Melbourne’s recent success and will be a key player if they are to continue their success this season.
Coach: The 55-year-old head coach Craig Bellamy has an impressive winning record of 67 per cent since taking over the reigns in 2003. Vastly experienced and gets the big calls right almost every time. The Storm have only missed out on the finals once since he took over; in 2010 when their points were stripped due to salary cap breaches.
Prediction: 6th – Chris Matthews-Darby
Top photo from Princess Purple’s Flickr photostream.