Ben Hunt declares Storm team to beat
He recently witnessed the strength of the Melbourne Storm first hand and now Broncos half Ben Hunt has declared that the southerners are the team to beat for the 2016 Telstra Premiership.
Heading into Round 20 Men of League Round the Storm are sitting just one win behind the Sharks in second position on the ladder with an assignment against the struggling Roosters at home this Saturday night.
The Broncos were handed a 48-6 hiding at the hands of Melbourne only a fortnight ago and writing for Big League this week Hunt said that reaffirmed his belief that they deserve to be considered favourites for this year's title.
"If they're healthy at the right end of the year my team to beat is the Storm," Hunt says in the special Men of League issue of Big League.
"In previous years they've had a big drop off behind Billy Slater, Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk, but that's not the case anymore.
"Smith and Cronk are still playing exceptional football, but they also have a good forward pack and they've got great outside backs.
"Cameron Smith is the best controller of a game in rugby league, speeding it up or slowing it down when he has to. He knows exactly when to work his forwards around the ruck or find his halves when he needs to."
Where in previous seasons the Storm have been let down in terms of consistency by some of their second tier players, Hunt agrees with Smith's statement from earlier in the year that they can now be trusted to perform their role and deliver a more complete performance.
"You only have to look at their key players to see why the Storm have been so successful this season," Hunt says.
"Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Cameron Munster have been outstanding and they have a big, mobile forward pack as well, led by Jesse Bromwich.
"Melbourne are consistent right across the park. If someone gets injured, whoever comes in plugs in and does his job.
"Tohu Harris, Kevin Proctor and Munster have joined Smith, Cronk, Bromwich and Will Chambers as top-tier players and the Storm's wingers are two of the best in the competition at the moment, scoring tries every week."
Also in his column Hunt runs the rule over the Sharks, Cowboys and Bulldogs and also nominates the team currently sitting outside the top four that he believes can cause some headaches in September: the Warriors.
Currently in eighth position and with a tough task to get two competition points at Canberra on Saturday afternoon, the Warriors have twice been pipped in golden point extra time in recent weeks and Hunt sees a dangerous outfit capable of absolutely anything.
"The Warriors are the most dangerous team outside the top four," says Hunt.
"If you come up against them when they're on their game, they're one of the hardest teams to beat.
"If the Warriors are clicking and Shaun Johnson is firing they're extremely difficult to handle."
The Men of League Round issue of Big League is on sale now at newsagents and at the ground. The digital version is also available via www.zinio.com, the Apple iTunes Store and Google Play.