Even as they arrive to take on Super League giants Leeds Rhinos in the World Club Challenge, the Storm remain slick and absolutely polished in their preparation and lead-up to the clash. Always well prepared, obviously well coached – they remain an enviable outfit that not only innovates, but every aspect of the club puts in massive amounts of effort.
Not only are the players the most prominent in the NRL competition, but the staff right through to the Public Relations teams seem to stand out from the pack. Here at NRL News, we get regular media releases from clubs and the Storm continue to keep us informed of their every more – more so than any other club, giving the media unrestricted access to them most of the time.
In 2008, there is no questioning they remain a force to be reckoned with. After blowing every other team away in the 2007 premiership, the Melbourne Storm will again start as overwhelming favourites for the NRLâ€™s 2008 crown. Under the expert eye of coach Craig Bellamy, who remains the most astute coach in the premiership, many punters believe that back-to-back titles is a certainty.
But the two time premiers will not have things all their own way, with other clubs sure to lift and attempt to knock the at times untouchable Storm off their high horse. Desire might be in question after achieving their goals in 2007 and there will be even more pressure on Bellamy and his boys in the games Centenary season, with an increased Origin involvement, and a host of new, inexperienced talent set to test the professionalism and spirit of the club.
Melbourne have been the best team by far over the past two seasons, but I think their recent success may just hurt them cum finals time this season.
Coach Bellamy possesses arguably the most talented and speedy backline in the competition, with rookies Greg Inglis and Israel Folau set to kick on from last yearâ€™s stellar season. The departure of Matt King opens the door for the introduction of yet another boom Storm rookie, Will Chambers, and fullback Billy Slater will be out to make amends for an injury interrupted 2007 season. With cool halves Inglis and Cronk steering the ship, the Storm could well be in for another record season.
The Storm have lost a host of experience over the off season, and only time will tell if their gamble on youth will pay dividends. The loss of Crossman, Shortland, Newton and Aubusson leaves a big hole in the defending premiers forward depth, and coach Bellamy may find it extremely difficult finding a suitable hooking replacement should captain Cameron Smith go down injured.
The Stormâ€™s backline still looks particularly lethal despite the departure of representative centre King, with talented rookie Will Chambers set to assume the number 3 jersey. Melbourneâ€™s depth is sure to be tested cum representative time, and there will be no shortage of teams queuing up to break the premiersâ€™ enviable home record.
Likely 2008 NRL Starting Side:
1- Billy Slater
2- Anthony Quinn
3- Will Chambers
4- Israel Folau
5- Steve Turner
6- Greg Inglis
7- Cooper Cronk
8- Brett White
9- Cameron Smith
10- Antonio Kaufusi
11- Ryan Hoffman
12- Jeremy Smith
13- Dallas Johnson
14- Michael Crocker
15- Matt Geyer
16- Jeremy Smith
17â€“ Jeff Lima
2008 Pre-Season Trial Matches-
16/02/08 v Manly Sea-Eagles @ Bluetongue Stadium, Gosford
29/02/08 World Club Challenge – v Leeds Rhinos @ Elland Road, Leeds
01/03/08 v Brisbane Broncos @ Dolphin Park, Redcliffe
2008 Acquisitions and Departures:
Ben McDougall (Northern Rivers), Kevin Proctor (Tweed Heads), Lucas Miller (Newcastle), Sinbad Kali (Central Coast), Joseph Tamone (Super 14, QLD), Aiden Guerra (Brisbane Norths)
Matt King (Warrington), James Aubusson (Sydney Roosters), Clint Newton and Garret Crossman (Hull), Ben Cross (Newcastle), Ryan Shortland (NZ Warriors), Anthony Perkins (NQ Cowboys)