Mid-Season Review: Melbourne Storm

Position after 13 rounds: 16th
Wins: 8
Losses: 4
Byes: 1
Points: 0
Differential: 71


Where do you start? A few weeks into the 2010 season the Storm once again looked like the team to beat. They had started slowly but still were winning and when they came up against the Dragons in Round 4 they proved they were still the powerhouse of the league… and then BOOM! The revelation that shocked the rugby league world came.

The Storm had been cheating the salary cap for years and was still doing so, resulting in mammoth sanctions including the stripping of their two most recent titles, their three minor premierships and all of their competition points for this year.

They are now effectively also-rans… playing each week for nothing (although now money for charity has been thrown in as added incentive) and are guaranteed the wooden spoon.

So far the side hasn’t dropped their bundle and would be running third if all things were equal.

Are Things Going To Plan?
Of course not. One does wonder what the administration’s plan was though… obviously to keep cheating the system and never get caught… but they WERE caught and now instead of being known as one of rugby league’s great dynasties they will forever be remembered as rugby leagues greatest cheats.

If we put the drama to one side and just look at the football being played, then the side is on track. The young kids getting opportunities are proving to be great and verify there will be a future in Melbourne despite the team likely being ripped apart.

Gareth Widdop, Chase Stanley, Matt Duffie, Rory Kostjasyn and Jesse Bromwich are just a few names Storm fans can hopefully be cheering more for in the future.

Injury Front…
Prop Brett White was missing for the beginning of the season and has only played four games, Sika Manu has been on board for just three games, Cameron Smith missed a handful after injury in the Test Match, Aiden Tolman probably missed Origin consideration after injury curtailed his strong start to the year (but he is back now) and Anthony Quinn was back to his best before injuring his thumb recently.

Only Quinn is missing at the moment but he is due back any round now.

If Only… The club’s management didn’t have some bad eggs and the side wasn’t cheating the cap… If only the NRL wasn’t forced to wipe them out for this season… If only they could take pay cuts and stay together… there are a lot of ‘if onlys’ here – but the reality is there has to be a punishment for a systematic form of cheating.

On the field the team has lost just four matches. The first two losses were games they could have won, first against the Titans as they blew a 16-4 lead to lose 20-16, and then a home loss against Manly when they started poorly but roared back into it only for Cameron Smith to miss a relatively easy conversion, resulting in an 18-16 loss.

They were belted by the Broncos in an ambush at the opening of their new home ground before rounding out the first half of the season with a spiteful grand final replay loss to Parramatta.

Who’s Flying…
Aiden Tolman has been a revelation at prop, running for 114 metres a game and adding 28 tackles. The precision in his charges and the speed of his play-the-balls has him earmarked as a future rep player – and a great buy for the Bulldogs from 2011.

The usual suspects of Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater are playing well and Cameron Smith has had a few bad games but is usually hot as hell. Cronk has 12 try assists and nine line-break assists while Slater has eight line-breaks, 10 line-break assists, seven try assists and four tries.

Special mention to Anthony Quinn before injury as he had notched up an impressive 10 line-breaks and seven tries. Matt Duffie has five line-breaks and five tries in just six games and averages 121 metres a game, great stuff for a rookie.

Needs To Lift…
Greg Inglis has had a very quiet year by his standards and it looks like this might continue as he wrestles with motivation, especially after Origin.

He is failing to penetrate often in attack and is missing tackles left right and centre. Now there is the distraction of a potential AFL offer in the mix as well, making 2010 one of Inglis’ least eventful in terms of on-field brilliance.

Assistant Coach Stephen Kearney tells NRL.com…
“It’s obviously been a very difficult time and it is still a week-to-week proposition but it’s important for us that we keep our best foot forward.

“The upside is we have been able to give some young kids opportunities to shine and they have done that and we also are raising some money for charities. It’s important that we keep putting in at training and in games to prove that our proud culture isn’t paper-thin.”

Predicted Finish… 16th. Put your house on it.

Under-20s… The Storm’s Toyota Cup side is struggling a little this season after winning the premiership last year. Outside the finals zone at the halfway point, the team needs to put a string of victories together to have any chance of defending their crown.

Blake Leary is leading the way in the tryscoring and line-breaking department and Kenny Bromwich looks a real workhorse.