How unstoppable are the Melbourne Storm?
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The Melbourne Storm is an unstoppable force at the moment, They have won their past sixteen matches in a row and have a League-best ever PD of +465. That’s +159 ahead of the next best Panthers. If that wasn’t enough their crushing style of victory is literally making fans bored with the competition, that’s just how intense Melbourne currently are.
After their latest victory over the already-mentioned Panthers, 37-10, supporters flocked to the comment boards and here is what some of them had to say. One very complementary person said, “Give them the trophy, best team by far”. Whilst another said, “Only Manly can give them a decent run for their money. The Storm is playing on a different level”. And another Rugby League follower had a more comical take on the heavily one-sided affair. “Storm gifting them ten points to soften the blow. Don’t have to guess too hard to know who’s going back-to-back.”
These comments based on the Panthers mauling have raised two very serious and extremely legitimate questions. Number one is, why is Melbourne so phenomenal this season? And number two is, is there anybody that can stop them in their tracks as they pursue their second Grand Final win in as many years? I’m about to hopefully answer those for you.
Why is Melbourne a different beast?
This is an answer that starts at the top in the form of Craig Bellamy. In his astonishing eighteen years coaching Melbourne he’s missed the Top Eight just once and that was when his side was forced by the NRL to finish last due to their severe salary cap breaches from previous years. ‘Bellyache’ is such a fantastic coach because he gets his players wanting to ‘go to war’ for him and he gets the best out of everybody. In pursuit of a Premiership, it’s crucial that any member of your squad can fill in at a moments notice and be ready to play.
Look at Ryan Papenhuyzen as a prime example of this. The former Australia 9’s player is one of the more freakish players in Rugby League at the moment. Not to mention he was a strong part of Melbourne winning the Grand Final last campaign as he picked up the Clive Churchill Medal for best on the field. However, he’s been battling injury this season and as a result, hasn’t featured much. While during the last two games he’s come off the bench. He could’ve sulked about it and demanded to start, but he just like everyone else for the Victorian-based side has brought into what Bellamy is trying to achieve. And it’s paid dividends! Against Penrith, the Fullback ran riot with 65 run m’s, 3 tackle breaks, completed 7/7 tackles, and kicked 4/4 goals to top it all off. If he was at say the Dragons or the Tigers, that just might not have happened.
Another example is Felise Kaufusi. In 2013 he had moved from the Cowboys to their Queensland Cup team, the Northern Pride RLFC. With no disrespect intended, this was a huge downgrade for him, and this very easily could’ve proved to be the end of his First-Grade career. However, Bellamy would soon pick him up and in RD1 of the 2015 NRL season, he played his first game for Melbourne vs St George. Three games later he would go on to score his first career try. And from 2017 through to now he’s represented Queensland on twelve occasions and Australia on four. ‘Bellyache’ saw potential in him and Kaufusi bought into what was required of him and as a result, he is now one of the most damaging Second-Rowers in the game today. He has a 97% tackle success rate so far this season. That being good for 407/420!
NO.3 Reimis Smith and NO.5 Josh Addo-Carr are two other primary benefactors of Bellamy’s strongly wielded vision for the Storm. In 2018 Smith was struggling to crack the top-grade Bulldogs team. Now he has 12 tries and 2 try assists this season. Whilst Addo-Carr was a bargain bin pickup from the ever-dysfunctional Wests Tigers organisation. He now has 21 tries + 4 try assists from only 16 matches played this campaign! I wish I could mention every player in Melbourne’s First-Grade squad because they all heavily contribute to what the Storm has achieved so far this year. But those four that I’ve just highlighted deserved a particularly special mention.
The Storms winning run started all the way back in RD4 when they demolished the Broncos 40-6. RD5 saw them put fifty-two points on the Bulldogs away from home. They then kept the Roosters to just a single try the match after. Then from Rounds 8-12 they beat Cronulla 40-14, South Sydney 50-0, St George 44-18, Canberra 34-10, and Brisbane 40-12. After that it was a tight victory over the Titans on the Sunshine Coast, scoring sixty-six vs the Tigers, forty-six vs the Roosters, forty-eight vs Newcastle, another tight one vs North Queensland and then the already-mentioned Penrith massacre. They don’t just beat teams, they put them to the absolute sword! Some of these teams are considered to be ‘the best in the league’. So, Melbourne’s ability to just crush teams with no resilience shown from the opposition whatsoever further highlights what a damaging prospect they are this season.
Who can topple them this season?
The Panthers without Nathan Cleary are an obvious no-go. The Rabbitohs faltered heavily when tasked with stopping the Storm. Parramatta has lost their last two in a row and is quickly fading during this prickly business end of the season. Sydney has been smashed multiple times by them this season and to include perhaps a Cronulla, a Canberra, or a Newcastle into the equation would be simply laughable. So that just leaves Manly.
Manly are a team many believe to be the only ones that are properly capable of giving Craig Bellamy’s men a real shake-up as they attempt to stop them from winning back-to-back Grand Finals. And Tommy ‘Turbo’ Trbojevic is the real reason as to why that is. The current State of Origin winner has bagged an incredible 15 tries and 16 try assists from just 10 games played this season! He’s also averaging an electric 5.2 tackle breaks, 1.5 line breaks and 219 running m’s per match. All the while he’s completed 80% of his attempted tackles on the season to date, good for 48/60. I mean is there anything he can’t do?
And those aren’t just empty stats either as Manly currently sit in the sixth spot on the ladder, just two wins off a Top Four berth (13 vs 11). Since RD5 the Sea Eagles have an 11-3 record which not so coincidentally happened to coincide with ‘Turbo’s return to the Sea Eagles line-up after a bit of a layoff from injury.
At Cbus Super Stadium in RD15 his side was facing a heavy 24-8 deficit. They would go on to beat the Gold Coast 56-24 in what was a crazy turnaround facilitated by none other than Trbojevic himself. That day his stats included 3 tries and 3 try assists! He has literally won and will continue to win Manly countless games off his own back!
Des Hasler was also responsible for one of the most embarrassing and forgettable moments in Bellamy’s Rugby League career when the Northern Beaches coach helped mastermind his sides 2008 40-0 Grand Final victory over his coaching rival. In what was the biggest-ever NRL margin of victory in a Grand Final he showed what he is capable of producing on the big stage. Expect ‘Dessy’ to remain a big factor in the Sea Eagles hunt as well, as he knows exactly what it takes to beat Bellamy.
So, there you have it. Melbourne is far from an easy team to beat, but if anybody can then it simply has to be their long-standing rivals in the form of Manly. They met in the 2007 Grand Final and then again, a year later. While their ‘infamous’ ‘Brawl of Brookvale’ will long live on as one of the most intense and vulgar fights in Australian sporting history. And putting aside their less than picturesque moments, the Sea Eagles really and truly do seem to be the only side capable of beating Melbourne in the finals this year. That’s of course barring a drastic change in anything results-wise or player personnel-wise. Let this longstanding rivalry be reignited!