Melbourne Storm: Their best 17 ever
Continuing RealSport’s special series; we start a debate about who the Best 17 Ever are for the Melbourne Storm.
The Storm joined the NRL in 1998, with their captain Glenn Lazarus leading them to a premiership in just their second season. Since then, it’s been almost constant and consistent success, albeit marred by Salary Cap cheating that has tarnished the legacy of the club. Still, it’s hard to deny that the players that have played have been of the highest calibre.
Picking players across eras is never an exact science. An author can do all of the research in the world and still never be 100% sure about the selections put forward. Sure, there are some certainties for every team of this nature, but let this not end the debate; let it start one.
The main criteria is that each player has been selected on the strength of their performances for the club in question (not representative football and not for other clubs). They may have only been at the club for a short time, but if they’ve made The Best 17 Ever, it’s because of the undeniable quality they produced during that time.
So let the debate begin!
1. Billy Slater (2003-Current)
Joyce Churchill once said Billy Slater is one of the greatest fullbacks ever and reminds her very much of how her late-husband Clive used to play. With almost 300 games for the Storm, countless tries, try saves and try assists; it’s hard to argue with Mrs. Churchill. SLater gets a run in this side!
2. Matt Geyer (1998-2008)
Geyer was one of the club’s inaugural wingers and filled in at five-eighth for their first Grand Final win in 1999. His versatility across the backline and his workmanlike approach to his football won him many admirers. He was the first player to play 250 games for the club and he was the club’s leading try scorer when he retired in 2008.
3. Greg Inglis (2005-2010)
What started as a tall schoolboy lighting up the Queensland Cup quickly became the story of one of the most prodigious athletes the game has seen. His height makes him an aerial target, his speed made him a must-see show, his right-hand fend made him an icon. Inglis can play all backline positions (he won the Clive Churchill medal at five-eighth in 2007), but left centre is where he plays in this team.
4. Matt King (2003-2007)
Matt King’s time in the UK and his late-career stint with the Rabbitohs sometimes makes people forget just how devastating he was at his peak. A man blessed with size, speed and excellent balance, King was always a threat when carrying the ball and very accomplished in defence.
5. Israel Folau (2007-2008)
Apologies to Marcus Bai, who was an excellent servant of the club in its formative years, but Folau was such a precious talent when wearing purple he simply cannot be ignored. If Inglis isn’t the most naturally gifted athlete Rugby League has seen in the last couple of decades, it might just be Israel, who had a tremendous advantage with his towering height and wide frame, belying his surprisingly nimble footwork. Folau was gone too soon from our great game.
6. Cooper Cronk (2004-2017)
Controversy! We could have picked Scott Hill or perhaps Gareth Widdop in the five-eighth role, but if we honestly want to talk about who the two best halves the Storm have ever had are, it must be Cronk and Kimmorley. With his training ethic, versatility and boundless professionalism, Cronk would slot in beautifully two passes wide of the ruck.
7. Brett Kimmorley (1998-2000)
When asked who the greatest halfback ever is, many will suggest that it was Andrew Johns. While Kimmorley was playing for the Storm (including guiding them to a Grand Final win in 1999), he was playing so well that Johns was moved to the dummy half role when playing in rep teams, just to accommodate Kimmorley. Enough said.
8. Jesse Bromwich (2010-Current)
In recent times controversy has surrounded Bromwich with his cocaine bust and subsequent sacking from the Kiwi national side, including losing the captaincy. But across his career he has proven to be an exceptional forward, challenging Matt Scott for the title of world’s best prop with his insatiable appetite for run metres and his ability to put a dent in the opposition’s line at will. Hopefully, he can regain that form and force his way onto the international stage again.
9. Cameron Smith (Captain) (2002-Current)
With the endurance of a machine and the footballing smarts of a computer, Cameron Smith has consistently put in 80 minute performances of pure excellence across a career spanning over 15 years. A leader of men, a tackler of giants, a kicker of goals. A winner. Smith is one of the greatest.
10. Robbie Kearns (1998-2005)
As the Western Reds went bust in 1997, Kearns, a newly minted international via the Super League series, was a prized pick up for the Storm’s inaugural season; forming a devastating front row rotation with Rodney Howe and Glenn Lazarus. Kearns played many seasons for the Storm and always inspired with his no-nonsense approach and leadership qualities.
11. Stephen Kearney (1999-2004)
Don’t let his recent coaching troubles cloud your judgement; Kearney was an exceptional second rower, with size, strength and the intelligence to hit the right holes on an edge, or assist with a pop-pass or an offload.
12. Ryan Hoffman (2003-2010 & 2012-2014 & Current)
The Storm have more current players in their side due to the fact that they are a relatively new club, but also due to the fact that we are still in their golden age; something that the hard-running Ryan Hoffman has very much been a part of during his time at the club. Hoffman is a leader and is selfless, always giving his all for the cause.
13. Tawera Nikau (1998-99)
Nikau’s time at the Storm was brief but his influence was immense. Known for being a skilful player with a lot of heart; debate rages about whether Nikau was a better footballer or a better person. His influence in getting the Storm their first premiership in 1999 cannot be overstated.
14. Scott Hill (1998-2006)
Scott Hill’s ability as a five-eighth and a lock makes him an ideal utility option on the bench in this side. A solid body with a hell of a lot of skill, Hill was unlucky to be injured for the 1999 Grand Final victory, but was pivotal that year; working with Kimmorley to set up dozens of tries and guide the new franchise to the top of the NRL mountain. Hill is desperately unlucky not to be in the run on side here.
15. Dallas Johnson (2003-2009)
There’s tough and then there’s tough and then there’s Dallas Johnson. In an era when locks were becoming giant humans, Johnson never weighed more than 100kg, and he never needed to. Often regarded as technically one of the best tacklers in the game, Johnson punched well above his weight to bring down the toughest men in the league by the dozens, week in, week out.
16. Kevin Proctor (2008-2016)
Proctor’s ability to hit a hole and create opportunities is well documented, but his stinging defence on the edges has long gone underrated by everyone except those that play with him, particularly the halves he helps protect. His move to the Gold Coast has thus far been bathed in controversy after he was busted for drug use, but his years with the Storm were of the highest quality.
17. Adam Blair (2006-2011)
Blair’s output at the Storm led to him becoming the Vice-Captain of his country at the time. Blair loves the rough stuff, often looking for confrontation and starting niggles with opponents, while also having some breathtaking offloading skills. Blair at his peak is the impact player this squad needs for the middle third of the field.
And that’s the team, not too bad, huh? How would they go against other teams named in this series? Do the men in purple have the class to beat the rest? And who did we miss? Let us know in the comments below and stay tuned for the Best 17 Ever for all the other clubs.