In the NRL competition for fewer years than most clubs, the Melbourne Storm have made a tremendous impact on the field. Winning premierships, performing consistently and boasting a plethora of tremendous players, the Storm has become one of the elite sides in the NRL for a number of years now.
In this editorial, we will analyse their best 17 in our view and it has some big names. Will some active players feature? Once again, we send a gentle reminder that our teams are made up of those players who have played almost exclusively for the Storm.
Here we have it, our pick for the best 17 players to have ever donned a Storm jersey:
1. Billy Slater – Commencing with the Storm in 2003, Slater’s talents were immediately on show as a precursor to the dynamic player he would become. His first game started on the wing before he moved to fullback in Rd 2 and he also had a stint at centre during the 2003 season. His debut year was one to remember as he topped the club’s try-scoring list with 19 and won the Dally M Rookie of the Year Award.
Just the next year, he made his first Origin appearance and whilst his debut game was not all that flash, he made up for it in the second as he was named man-of-the-match on the back of a two-try performance.
2004 was another good year for Slater scoring 14 tries from his 22 appearances and he as selected for the end of season Kangaroos tour but had to withdraw from the tour due to injury. He excelled yet again for the Storm in 2005 but he was dropped from the Queensland side for Game 3, a move which angered many fans. He would have to wait a further three seasons before he played Origin again.
From a try-scoring perspective, he finished with 20 tries from 21 matches as he continued to prove his worth. 2006 was a less successful season for Slater. Littered with suspensions – including a 7-week ban for kicking Tigers prop John Skandalis – Slater missed a total of 11 weeks due to suspension that season but did play in the grand final which the Storm was unable to win.
After a quiet start in 2007, it was made worse when Slater broke his cheekbone. Returning in Rd 18, this was the first season that saw Slater control the back-line play and become a crucial cog in the attacking system. He set up 20 tries in 2007 to go with his 12 tries. This time, he would taste success as the Storm made the 2007 grand final and won, with a victory over Manly. He won the club’s Back of the Year award and was named at fullback in their team of the decade.
2008 saw the Storm work so hard only to fall short at the final hurdle but Slater was named as the club’s player of the year. In that same year, he won the Golden Boot and was named the RLIF’s International Player of the Year.
The Storm would win another grand final in 2009 even though it ended up being stripped after the Storm were found guilty of breaching the salary cap but Slater still took out the Clive Churchill Medal and finished as the Storm’s leading try-scorer. Slater continued to assert his dominance on the game and took out the highest honour, the 2011 Dally M Medal of the Year. He drew praise from the likes of Andrew Johns who said Slater was the greatest fullback he had ever seen.
He won another premiership with the Storm in 2012 and continued to play for club, state and country on a regular basis.
In more recent times, Slater has unfortunately been away from the field due to a problematic shoulder injury that has kept him out for some time. He is still looking to return from that injury ahead of the 2017 season.
2. Marcus Bai – A hulking winger from Papua New Guinea, Bai would become a fan favourite and a key player for the Storm during his time with the club. Starting out with English side Hull FC, Bai also played for the Gold Coast Chargers briefly before joining the Storm for their inaugural season in 1998.
Bai settled in smoothly and was named Dally M Winger of the Year in just his first year with the club. He continued to impress in 1999 and played in every game on the wing that culminated in the club’s maiden premiership success after a hard-fought win over the St George Illawarra Dragons.
Hey may have only been at the Storm for five years but Bai was a player that the fans revered, as the Papua New Guinean-born winger impressed with his try-scoring ability and hard-running under pressure. In the end, he finished with 70 tries from 144 games and eventually finished his career with English side, Leeds.
3. Aaron Moule – The Queensland-born centre started his career with the South Queensland Crushers before making the move to the Storm for their inaugural season in 1998. He went on to play in 104 games and scored 58 tries in the process, a handy track record over a five-year period with the club.
Moule played at centre in the Storm’s inaugural premiership success in 1999 and also at the World Club Challenge in 2000.
He finished as the club’s leading try-scorer in both 2001 and 2002 before making the move to England to play with both Widnes and Salford.
4. Will Chambers – Hailing from Gove in the Northern Territory, Chambers made the move to Queensland first where he played his junior footy. Commencing his career with the Melbourne Storm, Chambers has only played for the one club throughout his career. Making his debut in 2007, Chambers was not involved in the club’s 2007 grand final success but he was endorsed by Matt King – who was involved in that success – as the man to replace him moving forward.
Chambers slowly became a regular in the Storm’s first-grade side and was a member of the 2009 premiership success which ended his first stint with the club. He made the move to Super Rugby when he signed a 2-year deal with the Queensland Reds. After that brief stint, he then signed with Munster for a short period of time.
Rejoining the Storm for the 2012 season, he had a successful start to the season upon his return. A key player by this time for the club, he was a member of the club’s 2012 premiership success and their World Club Challenge victory. He earned an Origin call-up during the 2014 season and played again in 2015.
Chambers then went on to captain the Storm’s NRL Auckland Nines side in 2015 before gaining selection for the Indigenous All-Stars in the annual clash. He then became the 800th player to represent the Kangaroos.
5. Matt Geyer – One of the greatest players to don the purple jersey of the Storm, Geyer was an influential figure and leader at the club. A genuine utility in that he was versatile across the park, he actually had a very brief stint at the Western Reds in 1997 before joining the Storm for their inaugural season in 1998.
At the time of his retirement, he was the Storm’s most capped player with 262 tries and amassing 662 points in the total (113 tries & 105 goals). In 1999, he was the first Storm player to lead the NRL in point-scoring and one of his goals – the most crucial of all – secured the Storm’s maiden premiership success that same year.
In 2006, he became the first Storm player to reach 200 career games for the club and was the only remaining player from the Storm’s 1999 premiership winning year to play in the 2006 decider that the Storm lost. They bounced back the year after when they won the 2007 grand final, a game that Geyer was a part of.
As he started to play more games off the bench, that role eventually changed when fellow centre Will Chambers was injured. Geyer replaced him for that season in 2008 and then made the decision to retire upon the season’s completion. Upon his retirement, he left the club as their leading try-scorer.
6. Scott Hill – Born and raised in Dubbo, Hill’s rugby league career began with stints at the Canterbury Bulldogs and the Hunter Mariners before joining the team saw him become a household name, the Melbourne Storm. A tremendous player, many remember Hill for his slight of hand and the swift nature in which he played the game.
Hill was a Storm player from their inaugural season in 1998 and whilst he played a part in the 1999 season, he missed the grand final due to a knee reconstruction. A talented utility, Hill enjoyed a lengthy stint with the Storm and was a consistent performer for the club. He was often criticised for not performing as well as he could have on the representative stage but Storm fans revered him for his efforts with the club.
2006 ended up being Hill’s last with the club as he made the move to England to sign with Harlequins.
7. Cooper Cronk – Starting out as a bench utility in 2004, Cooper Cronk has since gone on to forge a lengthy, successful career as a player with the Storm side. Covering five-eighth, hooker and lock when he started, it was the 2006 season in which he first gained recognition by winning the 2006 Dally M Halfback of the Year.
Due to the absence of Cam Smith, Cronk was captain in the Storm’s 2008 premiership defeat to Manly. The following year, he was instrumental in the club’s grand final success setting up two tries even though that premiership was eventually stripped due to the Storm’s salary cap breach.
Also a mainstay in the Queensland Origin side, it was the 2010 season that his Origin career kicked on after an injury to Johnathan Thurston. He continued to perform at all levels over the next few years before enjoying premiership success in 2012, one of the best seasons in Cronk’s career. He won Dally M Halfback of the Year for a second time and was named the Clive Churchill Medallist on grand final day. He continued his good form in 2013, a year that saw him win not only Dally M Halfback of the Year for a third time but also the Dally M Award for the first time.
In 2014, he played in his 250th NRL game, just the third Storm player to reach the milestone.
Just last year in 2016, Cronk was only the 25th player to reach 300 games and just the 11th to do so playing for one club. He also won yet another Dally M Halfback of the Year Award and the Dally M Award in 2016, tied with the Cowboys Jason Taumalolo.
8. Robbie Kearns – A junior at the Engadine Dragons, Kearns started out with the Cronulla Sharks firstly before a stint at the Western Reds. When the Storm entered the competition, Kearns joined in 1998. In just his first season with the club, he was named as the club’s player of the year. A no-nonsense, hard-nosed, strong forward, Kearns was part of the Storm side that won the 1999 premiership in their second year and of the World Club Challenge success in 2000.
He was captain from 2000 to 2002 and then again in 2005 which ended up being his last year of professional rugby league. At a representative level, Kearns played for both NSW and Australia. He remained with the Storm in a marketing capacity upon his retirement.
In the Storm’s Team of the Decade named in 2007, Kearns was selected at prop.
9. Cameron Smith – Whilst we all know Cam Smith as the best hooker in the game at present, he actually started his career as a halfback in his first two games with the Storm. His long stint with at hooker with the Storm began in 2003 and his first Origin performance came that same year when the Maroons could not decide on a long-term hooker to play for them.
2003 was capped off with Smith winning the NRL Rookie of the Year award. 2005 then saw Smith named the Storm’s Player of the Year before winning the Dally M Medal in 2006, his best year with the Storm and in the NRL up until that point. He made his representative debut in 2006 before helping the Storm win the NRL premiership in 2007. 2008 saw a big shift in the career of Smith when he was named captain. Since that time, he has never looked back and led the Storm side with guidance and genuine leadership.
He had another stint at halfback in the World Club Challenge in 2010 when Cooper Cronk was injured but reverted back to hooker soon after. Continuing to lead from the front and set the tone, Smith was named the RLIF Hooker of the Year in 2011. 2012 was another successful year for Smith as he guided the Storm to a premiership success and won the Dally M Hooker of the Year once again in addition to being named the RLIF International Player of the Year.
Just last year, Smith played in his 300th match and became just the 24th player in history to do so. He continues to guide his younger team-mates on and off the field and is revered by many Storm fans and many fans across the NRL.
10. Rodney Howe – Another player to join the Storm for their inaugural season, Howe previously had stints at both the Newcastle Knights and the Western Reds. His Storm career started somewhat badly, though, after he was banned for 22 games for using stanozolol. Returning in 1999 with a bang, though, he quickly re-established himself as a key forward for the club and he was a part of the club’s premiership success that year.
Howe’s good form continued after he was named the club’s player of the year in 2000 before winning it again in 2002. After a couple more seasons with the club and after continuing to perform well, Howe opted to retire at the end of the 2004 season.
11. Stephen Kearney – Joining the Storm in their maiden 1998 season, Kearney had previously played for both the Western Suburbs Magpies and the Auckland Warriors. A hulking forward, Kearney was a tough player to handle for opposition defences. Many regard him as one of the best on ground in the club’s maiden premiership success in 1999.
He travelled with the Storm to England and was a member in the Storm’s comprehensive win.
A consistent forward, Kearney continued to impress regularly for the Storm and went on to play a remarkable 45 games for the New Zealand Kiwis. He was also the first New Zealander to play in 250 NRL games, a mark that still stands today.
Playing with the Storm until the end of the 2004 season, Kearney had a final season with English side, Hull FC.
12. Danny Williams – Whilst many might only remember him for the way in which he left the NRL, prior to that, he was quite a successful, nifty player for the Storm and the North Sydney Bears. Joining the Storm in 2008, Williams came off the bench in the club’s 1999 maiden premiership success before travelling with the side to England for the World Club Challenge, a game the club won.
Playing in a total of of 146 games for the club, Williams time at the club ended suddenly. In 2004, Williams king-hit Mark O’Neill and was banned for a total of 18 games, an Australian club record ban. After that, he moved to England and played with Harlequins before retiring.
13. Dallas Johnson – Spotted playing for the Storm’s affiliate team, Johnson made the move to the Storm ahead of the 2003 season and played in 20 games in his debut year. A hard-worker, a fan favourite and a player who loved to make tackles, Johnson toiled and performed well for three seasons before his good form culminated in winning the 2007 NRL premiership with the Storm. Although as we all know, this would later be stripped in 2010.
Playing his 150th match for the club in the 2008 season, Johnson would continue to represent both Queensland and Australia up until his Storm departure. The 2009 season was the last one at the Storm that led to another premiership which was also stripped in 2010 due to the salary cap breach.
He then moved to French side Catalans before returning to the NRL with the North Queensland Cowboys.
14. Richard Swain – A talented Kiwi player, Swain made his debut with the Hunter Mariners in 1997 before moving to the Storm for their inaugural 1998 season. In a remarkable feat of durability, Swain did not miss a single game for the Storm from his debut to his final game in 2002. His form was consistent and he was rewarded with a total of 19 games for New Zealand throughout his career.
In just their 2nd year, the Storm won a maiden premiership with Swain an influential part of that team at hooker. He was rewarded for his good form by winning the Storm’s Player of the Year Award in 2001 and was the first player in the NRL to top 1000 tackles in a season.
With 2002 being his final year with the club, Swain then had one year at the Brisbane Broncos, before heading to England to play for Hull FC.
15. Matt Rua – Initially a Manly junior, Rua also joined the Storm in their inaugural year of 1998 and played for feeder club Norths Devils. He won the club’s Rookie of the Year award in 1999 and won a premiership with the club the same year. He also represented New Zealand and played 11 games for the Kiwis over three years.
He quickly became a mainstay of the side and was noted for his determination and hard-running, despite his smaller stature for the position. Lock and second-row were his positions and he continued to play for the club until the 2002 season. In total, he played 100 NRL games for the Storm before being released. He had signed with Canberra but then left to play in the Bartercard Cup.
He returned for one final game with the Storm in 2007 but that is all he would play and he retired at the end of that season.
16. Russell Bawden – A hard-working forward, Bawden was an unsung hero of the Storm side at the time but toiled and impressed many fans. His career started with the Brisbane Broncos but after a couple of games there, he then had a stint at the London Broncos before joining the Storm for their inaugural season in 1998.
He was a part of the Storm’s 1999 premiership success as a forward off the bench before also winning the 2000 World Club Challenge. Over 101 games with the Storm, he also represented Queensland on three occasions. At the end of the 2001 season, Bawden departed and had a second stint with the London Broncos.
17. Ryan Hoffman – A hard-running edge back-rower, Hoffman quickly established himself as a key player in the Storm side after making his debut in 2003. After consistent form, his 2006 season saw him make his representative debut for New South Wales as well as taking out the Storm’s Forward of the Year Award. The sour point of his 2006 season was the Storm’s grand final loss.
He was a part of the Storm’s premiership successes in 2007 and 2009, both of which were eventually stripped from the Storm due to their salary cap breaches.
As a result, the Storm had to shed players with Hoffman being one of them. He joined the Wigan Warriors in England and played with them for one season. In 2012, he rejoined the Storm and played in the club’s 2012 premiership victory as well as the 2013 World Cup Challenge victory.
At the end of 2014, he made the move across the Tasman to the New Zealand Warriors where he currently plays.