Ricky's NRL Preview Pt 10: Melbourne Storm

Another day, another preview, this time on the Melbourne Storm. Boasting one of the best spines in the competition in regards to position, the Storm are expected to again feature in the finals. Do they have enough of a supporting cast to challenge for the top, though, or will it be something that costs them. Will they be able to deal with the loss of Widdop can someone step up in their absence. It may well be a make or break season in a few respects for the club.

GAINS: Dayne Weston(Panthers) Travis Robinson (Panthers) Hymel Hunt (Gold Coast Titans) Felise Kaufusi (North Queensland Cowboys) Cody Walker (Easts Tigers) George Rose (Manly Sea Eagles) Cameron Munster (Central Queensland Capras) Ben Roberts (Parramatta Eels) Joel Romelo (Canterbury Bulldogs).

As is the case at the start of every season for the Storm, the focus shifts to their big 3 and how well they are expected to perform moving forward. With Slater, Cronk and Smith all elite players in their respective positions, the club’s hopes may well fall on their shoulders once again and the key for the Storm and for coach Craig Bellamy, is to get the best out of the supporting cast and get them performing early on. If any coach is going to do that, it is Craig Bellamy, who gets the best out of rejects from other clubs or players that have previously been down on form. With players like George Rose and Joel Romelo finding new homes, can Bellamy get the very best out of these players should they play first-grade?

As is usually the case for the Storm when it comes to recruitment each year, they bought players that were on the outer at their club or young, upcoming players and in the past, that has served them well. With some players having something to prove at the Storm, how well they perform will dictate in part towards the Storm’s success. The likes of Rose, Romelo and Roberts are the primary ones to keep an eye on, with all likely to play some sort of role in first-grade over the course of the season.

2014 shapes as a big season for the Storm as they look to re-assert themselves as a competition heavyweight and get back to the summit of the premiership. With a team capable of doing so, there are a few players that will be under the spotlight throughout the season and as to how they perform? Well, only time will reveal that.

The five-eighth dilemma is an interesting one for the Storm in 2014 and moving forward after the departure of Gareth Widdop to the Dragons. Leaving them in somewhat of a conundrum, there is a decision to make for Craig Bellamy. On one hand, there is experience but at times, inconsistency, should he choose Ben Roberts. On the other hand, there is a young, budding utility back who has performed admirably in the halves in both the NYC and reserve grade competitions but who can perhaps be deemed a bit raw as a player.
If Roberts is the man that Bellamy goes with, Storm fans will be hopeful that the Storm Supercoach can get the very best out of Roberts, who during his time at both the Bulldogs and the Eels in the past years was heavily criticised for largely inconsistent seasons.
If Hampton is the man to go forward, his youthful exuberance and crafty play-making will help the Storm but will he be ready to deal with the pressure that comes when you play for the Storm and will he be able to fill Widdop’s shoes – a player who linked well with the club’s big 3.
If you ask me, Ben Hampton is the man to move forward in the role.

Another player with a lot to prove in 2014 is a new recruit for the Storm, George Rose. A fan favourite during his time and career at Manly, Rose was often criticised by some fans across the NRL for his weight and size, leading to at times, ill-informed comments on the part of the fans. With a new training regime that cheapest price for cialis all Storm players have gone through and a plan to get the very best out of him moving forward, it may be the sort of training and change that Rose needs to become a better player. Known for his power running style, he complements the other Storm props well – the forward pack offers quite good balance for the club – and for Rose, he has a chance to cement a spot in the side on a long-term basis, seeing as the club have often lacked some punch in the past where it matters. With Rose coming on board, the starch is added to the pack and he has a chance to become an important piece in the Storm side and make a solid impact.

Overall, with elite players, an elite coach and a well-balanced core of players for 2014, one would expect the Storm to feature in the finals again and go deep into the finals. Of course, the big question – one that will be answered at some point throughout the season – is just how the chosen five-eighth will handle with the expectation and pressure of the season moving forward and how the team as a whole perform in light of a few personnel changes.

Player To Watch: Hymel Hunt. A recent acquisition from the Gold Coast Titans, Hunt is a player that many may not have heard about but one that they will hear about soon. Offering added versatility as he is able to play both at centre and in the back-row, the chances of a first-grade position may not come straight away, though with his talent, one could expect it to come soon. With a balanced overall game of speed and strength – and solid acceleration off the mark for someone with his versatility – he was a player that Titans fans were disappointed to lose, given they knew what he was capable of and knew just how much of a talent he could become. Still young and with the chance to make a mark wherever he plays, Hunt is a player that will shine when given an opportunity and a player that will be entertaining to watch both with ball in hand and without. When the chance comes for him, Hunt will take it and Storm fans will have a chance to see why Titans fans often raved about his abilities.

Here’s the Storm side I’d go with:

1. Billy Slater
2. Sisa Waqa
3. Will Chambers
4. Mahe Fonua
5. Travis Robinson
6. Ben Hampton
7. Cooper Cronk
8. Jesse Bromwich
9. Cam Smith (C)
10. Bryan Norrie
11. Kevin Proctor
12. Ryan Hoffman
13. Ryan Hinchcliffe

14. Tohu Harris
15. George Rose
16. Junior Moors
17. Jordan McLean