The Storm and the Cowboys put on a high quality game of football sans their Origin stars that went into golden point. Melbourne's future looks bright as their young stars stood up when it mattered most, Brodie Croft had a breakout game in just his second NRL match, the Cowboys were brave in defeat, while Jesse Bromwich and Jason Taumalolo stood tall.
Storm and Cowboys deliver highly-quality thriller
You would be forgiven if you thought the Melbourne Storm and North Queensland Cowboys clash lost its appeal without nine Origin stars including Cameron Smith, Johnathan Thurston, Billy Slater, Cooper Cronk and Michael Morgan. However, the two clubs deserve a tremendous amount of respect after providing a thrilling showstopper at AAMI Park.
Many sides that lean on their stars would flail without them, but the Storm and Cowboys never make excuses in providing their best performance. While it was Melbourne who escaped with the 23-22 extra-time victory, North Queensland could just have easily been the ones celebrating.
There’s no doubt these two sides will feature in a major way at the end of the season for the 2017 premiership.
Storm’s youth movement
Those wondering (or stressing) about the league-leading Storm post the Big Three era can rest easy because the future is bright as their victory over the Cowboys demonstrated.
Trailing 10-0 in the 25th minute and 14-6 in the 46th minute, the Storm exploded for three consecutive tries midway through the second half to claim a landmark victory without their Origin superstars in captain Cameron Smith, Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk. It was a night where a number of emerging youngsters made the most of their opportunity and stood up to deliver a resonating win for the Melbourne club. Developing talents such as Brodie Croft and Curtis Scott starred alongside relative newcomers Felise Kaufusi, Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Ryley Jacks and Brandon Smith. "There were a lot of young boys on show tonight and they did really well,” stand-in captain Jesse Bromwich said.
The next generation at Melbourne is very bright indeed.
Brodie Croft’s Cooper-esque performance for Melbourne
While he may be known in league circles as Cooper Cronk’s clone, dynamic half Brodie Croft came into his own with a massive performance in just his second NRL match. Some clubs are forced to name players to fill a void left during representative periods but not Melbourne. "We don't just give a jersey to everyone, they've got to earn it,” Storm coach Craig Bellamy said. “The guys that played tonight deserved their positions."
Croft more than earned his spot helping set up two tries and kicked the match-winning field goal in overtime.
Bellamy rightly praised Croft after the match for his game and hard work in his preparation.
"After tonight Croft will be hungry to play a lot more I'd imagine,” Bellamy said.
"He's been playing Q-Cup, playing against men and handling it really well.
"Croft's field goal never looked like missing, he has been working hard on that at training all week."
Croft’s last game before playing the Cowboys was against the St George-Illawarra Dragons on June 18, 2016 – 364 days ago. However, Croft may not have to wait that long again for another run in first-grade.
Cowboys promising performance
North Queensland are equally deserving of praise in a gutsy performance without their Origin quartet of Thurston, Morgan, Gavin Cooper and Coen Hess. While they relinquished their lead and trailed 22-14, they refused to quit and miraculously forced the game into golden point, scoring a try within the final three minutes and kicking a penalty goal after fulltime.
“I was really proud of the performance tonight given the players we had out and the quality you miss with Origin players,” Cowboys coach Paul Green said.
“(We) got a couple of little things wrong but we had players out of position, three HIA’s (head injury assessments) which really disrupts your team and when you’re without those experienced players, that disruption makes it a lot harder. Despite that, we got behind on the scoreboard and gave ourselves a chance to win at the end.”
It’s the sort of effort that inspires plenty of confidence that will benefit them down the stretch of the regular season and into the near future.
Jesse Bromwich stands tall as stand-in captain
After a difficult period off the field, Jesse Bromwich was inspirational up front for the Storm against the Cowboys. In an outstanding 73-minute performance, Bromwich ran 198 metres in 22 carries along with 41 tackles. Every metre and tackle was vital to combat North Queensland forward Jason Taumalolo’s monster night where he ran for 300 metres. After the match, Bellamy made special mention of Bromwich’s brave night.
“I thought the guy sitting next to me (Bromwich) was particularly outstanding,” Bellamy said. “For a front rower to play the minutes he did with the amount of energy and effort he did, was a great captain’s knock.”
With Dale Finucane leaving the field after failing a HIA test to start the second half, Bromwich literally carried his team to victory and showed why he could be destined to be the future captain at Melbourne.