Milestone man Hinchcliffe a natural leader
As Melbourne begins their season on Monday night against St George Illawarra one favourite son is ready to add another milestone to a longstanding NRL career.
Ryan Hinchcliffe will play his 150th game in the purple jersey and his teammates will be out to ensure it is a night to remember.
It has been quite the journey for the Storm veteran who arrived at the club desperate to establish himself at the game's top level.
Prior to landing in Melbourne, Hinchcliffe spent two years with the Canberra Raiders playing a total of 21 games before make the switch in 2009.
His Storm debut that year also came in Round 1 against the Dragons although the 30-year-old admits it will be a very different player that steps onto Jubilee Oval this time around.
"At that time I was just a young kid looking for an opportunity so to be able to chalk up 150 games at a great club is something I am very proud of," Hinchcliffe said.
"It's something I'll probably look back on when I'm finished but my focus is purely on the Dragons for Monday night."
Hinchcliffe has built himself into a mainstay of the Storm side, missing just six games since debuting for the club six years ago.
The perennial workhorse ranked second at the club for tackles last year behind skipper Cameron Smith.
His efforts over the years have built him into not only a favourite amongst the fans but also coach Craig Bellamy, something his teammates never forget to remind him of.
"I do cop a bit of stick from the boys," Hinchcliffe said.
"Craig has done a lot for me and I certainly owe him a lot in regards to my career. He gave me my opportunity and showed me the way so I will be forever grateful to him for that but I certainly cope a lot of stick."
Heading into Monday night, Speculation still surrounds the fitness of skipper Cameron Smith who is fighting to overcome a limited pre-season due to off-season ankle surgery.
Should the captain fail to pull through Hinchcliffe will be the one to fill the shoes at hooker, a position he frequented while in Canberra and has been training in for the past two months.
For now though the customary lock has been named to come off the bench for game 150, having lost his starting spot to new recruit and former Bulldog Dale Finucane.
Finucane's inclusion means five of the club's starting side against the Dragons will be 23 years or younger.
While the inexperience may leave some sides prone to a lapse, Melbourne is in the enviable position of having a host of experienced leaders ready to offer guidance.
The milestone man is one who is more than willing to usher in the next generation.
"I've been here for a little while and the club has always had some really good leaders," Hinchcliffe said.
"I just feel like I have to carry that on and keep that leadership strong within the group.
"For me it's just something that comes naturally, it's not really something I think about too much. It's a role that I enjoy."
Melbourne travel to Jubilee Oval to take on St George Illawarra at 7pm this Monday night.
The two sides will play for the Emergency Services Cup in recognition of the emergency services personnel of both Victoria and New South Wales.
Video courtesy melbournestorm.com.au