Ladder Position: 1st
Points For: 633
Points Against: 336
Top Try Scorers: Joshua Addo-Carr & Suliasi Vunivalu (23 tries)
Home Record: 9 wins, 3 losses
Away Record: 11 wins, 1 loss
Finals Record: 3 wins, 0 losses
Highlight of the season
Five years after their last title, the Storm are at the top of the mountain yet again. And it’s easy to marvel at just how they did it.
They were in outright first place from round eight onwards and never relinquished their lead to the end of the regular season. They lost just four games all season, with two of those coming during the State of Origin period. They finished the year with a 10-match winning streak. They displayed the typical Melbourne grind in their defence with some tough low-scoring wins but also illustrated their ruthless edge with 633 points this season.
Their finals series started with a tight win over the Eels, but any questions about their ability to close out games were put to bed after they dispatched the Broncos yet again. The final was a reflection of all they had put in during the season, as they turned in a clinical performance to comprehensively defeat the Cowboys by 34-6.
Lowlight of the season
For a team that dominated as much as the Storm did, it is hard to find many low points. Their loss in round six, a Grand Final re-match against the Sharks, would have stung a bit. The 11-2 scoreline reflected the wet conditions that day in Melbourne as simple errors meant the Storm could not find much momentum in that match and spent a lot of time defending.
They also fell in their two matches during the Origin period, against the Eels and the Roosters but the latter took a Mitchell Pearce field goal in golden point to get them over the line. The Storm youngsters were blooded and still performed above expectations during that period.
What went right
The Storm enjoyed one of their most fruitful seasons in attack and defense, leading the league in both.
Billy Slater made his long-awaited return from injury in round three while the Storm had the services of Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith for the majority of the season, forming a core leadership group on and off the field. Smith was named Dally M player of the year and lived up to his billing as one of the best players in the game.
Their two wingers, Josh Addo-Carr and Suliasi Vunivalu, both rookies in their own right, combined for 46 tries together all told, with 23 apiece. They complimented each other perfectly, with Vunivalu’s strength to get past defences on the line and ability in the air, coupled with Addo-Carr’s raw pace, providing a brilliant finishing platform for the Storm.
Cameron Munster proved himself an up-and-coming player to help with the transition for the club’s future without Cronk. Bellamy moved him from his fullback position to five-eighth, with immediate results. So much so that Munster made his debut for Queensland in the second State of Origin game this year.
Their pack was consistent with a number of players stepping up including Felise Kaufusi, Jordan McLean and Dale Finucane, along with the Bromwich brothers, Jesse and Kenny. Typically, all would make over 20 tackles per week and on average would make no less than 110 metres.
The Origin period is generally a testing one for Storm as they miss a lot of their representative players however, as noted above, they used the opportunity advantageously to bring some younger players into first grade such as Brodie Croft, making a generally positive impact.
What went wrong
Not too much. They could have easily taken last year’s grand final loss against the Sharks to heart, but true to their culture, they stood up and were counted for this year.
Questions were being asked of them during the finals series, with basic errors leading to sluggish starts in the matches against the Eels and the Broncos, but those only turned out to be red herrings. Honestly, am I just looking for things here? If you can tell me something that went wrong with the Storm this season, I would love to hear about it.
Stand out player
He’s played over 15 years of first grade football but with time it appears as if Smith, who claimed his second Dally M player of the year award, has just gotten better and better.
The Storm captain led from the front in all aspects, playing the majority of the side’s games and being relentless in the pressure he placed against opposing sides.
As usual, he was a menace in the ruck, having a hand in two tries in the Grand Final alone. This was a reflection of his 13 try assists and just as important 16 line break assists during the season. He never let-up in defence either as part of the Storm pack with averaged 39 tackles per game.
He also placed a lot of pressure on the backs of teams with some pin-point kicks, allowing his forwards time to breath. His goal kicking was consistent if not spectacular, compared to his career record, slotting 92 goals.
He broke a number of records during the year, and at 34, he looks like could go around the block a few more times just yet.
Addo-Carr. He’s affectionately known as “the fox,” and why not, with the sauntering speed the young winger has shown all throughout the season.
His pre-season comments before coming across from the Tigers, where he played nine games last year in his first season of first grade, were that he was looking to the Storm to “take him to lofty heights,” and indeed they did. Addo-Carr illustrated his ability to create something from nothing, in order to obliterate defensive lines. He was also very comfortable with coming across from his left wing and crossing over to score on the right.
Over 3,800 run metres at an average of 140 metres per game, a season equal-high 23 tries with his wing partner Vunivalu, himself only in his second full season of first grade and a season-high 26 line breaks added up to a brilliant season for Addo-Carr. Expect big things from him going forward.
Recruitment for 2018
2018 Gains: Sam Kasiano (Bulldogs), Ryan Papenhuyzen (Tigers)
2018 Losses: Jesse Arthars (Rabbitohs), Dean Britt (Rabbitohs), Slade Griffin (Knights), Tohu Harris (Warriors), Jordan McLean (Cowboys), Robbie Rochow (Tigers)
Off-Contract at end of 2017: Cooper Cronk, Jeremy Hawkins, Nate Myles, Mark Nicholls
There will be a bit of a transition phase with veteran Cronk leaving Melbourne at the end of 2017. His understudy Brodie Croft will take time to get familiar in that role. Ryley Jacks is another player who may be expected to fill that void at Origin time. Bellamy knows how to bring younger players up to speed in first grade, so it will be intriguing to see how this comes together.
There will also be some changes in the forwards with Tohu Harris and McLean leaving for the Warriors and Cowboys respectively, while Sam Kasiano, who had a below-par season with the Bulldogs, coming across. While Nate Myles is still off-contract, he could provide some valuable assistance off the bench. The Storm might also do well to re-sign former player Ryan Hoffman, who is currently off-contract with the Warriors.
That would add to a leadership group that still contains Smith, as consistent as ever, and Slater, who has agreed to play on in 2018. With this in mind, the many positives gained during this season, and a number of their squad re-signed to new contracts, a top three finish is more than achievable for the Storm next season.
What were your highlights from the Storm’s 2017 campaign? Let us know in the comments below.
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