The Storm's depth helped them overcome a horror injury toll to finish the season in top spot according to Cameron Smith.

Most teams would admit defeat and turn their attention to next year when faced with an injury toll that seemingly had a new name added each week. 

But the Storm aren't most teams. 

 

And while their skipper Cameron Smith said it was the worst run of injuries he had seen at the club, the Storm soldiered on, turning setbacks into positives; negatives into opportunities. 

Only Dale Finucane, Jesse Bromwich, Kenny Bromwich and Tohu Harris featured in all 24 matches for the Storm in 2016, with injuries, suspensions and State of Origin wreaking havoc on Melbourne's extended squad. 

But no matter who went down, the Storm found someone else to step up and do the job, and according to Smith, that's why they finished the regular season as minor premiers. 

"In my entire career at the Storm I don't think we've been through a season where we've had so many injuries," he said. 

"Losing Billy Slater after Round 1 was a huge blow for the team and I don't think too many people gave us a hope after that. 

"In the weeks after that we lost nearly our entire starting backline and then we lost some big men over the middle of the season as well, but we've managed to come out every week and play well. 

"That's through the commitment of the boys with our training. I've been really proud of the way the younger guys have played this year. 

"They were challenged at the end of last season to increase their consistency for this year, and they've done that every time they've been given an opportunity to play first grade. 

"That's how you get to the position of being minor premiers and playing in finals – the whole squad needs to play consistent footy for the whole year."

Smith paid special tribute to Cameron Munster who had to step into the fullback role for the second year in a row after star No.1 Slater was ruled out for the season after re-injuring his shoulder in Round 1.

Originally pencilled in to play centre in 2016, Munster seamlessly transitioned to the back, finishing the regular season with four tries, 11 assists and a whopping 120 tackle breaks – nearly twice as many as Melbourne's next best (Marika Koroibete).  

The Storm skipper admitted his side had a few teething problems early on as they tried to rejig their structures to suit Munster's running game, but said there were never any concerns that the issues would last long. 

"We all knew that we had to change a little of our game plan of how we were going to approach our footy," Smith said. 

"Cameron Munster is a different player to Billy Slater and maybe that's why we struggled a bit in those early rounds, particularly with our attack. 

 


"We didn't adjust well enough and our style of football wasn't complementing the way Cameron plays. We were still trying to play him at fullback the way we wanted Billy to play. 

"At no stage did the coaches or anyone in the squad fear that our season was over or that we were going to struggle during the year. 

"We had every confidence that if we continued to work hard at training and if we went out and played the way we wanted to prepare at the start of the year then we'd always be a chance."

Smith and his teammates will need to carry that momentum into Saturday night's qualifying against the Cowboys in a tantalising tussle between the minor and defending premiers. 

The Storm won both meetings earlier in the year, but North Queensland won the most recent meeting in Melbourne during the 2015 finals series.

"I think they're going to turn up with a good game plan. They're a tactical side and a little bit different to some of the other sides in the finals series," he said. 

"We've played them twice this year already – both times in Queensland – and we've had victories, but we're not going to ride on the back of that for this match.

"It's going to be a totally different prospect this time around. Obviously they don't have any fears coming down to Melbourne because they knocked us off in a prelim down there last year.

"They're a big-game team and the reigning premiers so they know how to get the job done at this time of the year."

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