Storm young guns fire in narrow trial loss
Until Cooper Cronk's recent departure, the Melbourne Storm enjoyed several years where they fielded one of the best, and most stable, spines in NRL history. And the future again looks bright.
Young fullback Scott Drinkwater, hooker Harry Grant and halves Cooper Johns and Billy Walters led a spirited Storm side onto Rotorua International Stadium on Saturday against the New Zealand Warriors in their pre-season trial while Melbourne's main squad recovered from Friday night's World Club Challenge win over the Leeds Rhinos.
Despite going down 20-14, there were several positive signs from the depleted Melbourne side's effort.
Johns, son of former Newcastle Knights international Matthew Johns, and Walters, son of Queensland coach Kevin Walters, showed a good mix of control and flair throughout the match.
Walters stamped his authority on the match early, selling the dummy and slicing through the Warriors defence before finding winger Matt Sopa-Lawler for the game's opening try.
With what limited ball they did have, the pair were able to manufacture opportunities, but were often let down by their outside men or schoolboy errors in the middle of the park.
Drinkwater looked safe under the high ball and dangerous in attack. He was able to link well with Walters but the last pass too often found the turf.
Grant got his name on the scoresheet, muscling his way over early in the second half and was a shining light in defence for Melbourne.
The premiers will likely have all their big guns on deck for their opening round of the Telstra Premiership against the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs in Perth, so it is unlikely Saturday's performers will be pushing for first-grade spots.
But if injuries strike, there is genuine depth in Melbourne's squad, especially in their spine stocks.