Why Storm are most entertaining premiers in 40 years
Andrew Voss on the NRL's brilliant premiers as well as a teenage England star on the rise and a dream for the rugby league world.
It's time for a Tuesday league feast folks. The BBQ is smoking… Let's talk a little footy.
I have covered rugby league in the media for the last 30 years, and followed the sport since the early '70s.
I love the sport. I am a student of the game's history and, as a result, feel qualified to make the following statement.
The Melbourne Storm of 2017 were one of the best club sides I have been privileged to watch. And based on their terrific performance in the World Club Challenge, the remodeled 2018 version is going to be just as much fun to see play.
Will they be able to match the degree of excellence of their premiership-winning season is something that remains to be seen. But they have a host of players who are better for the experience of last year. There was evidence of that against Leeds through the likes of Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Felise Kaufusi and Suliasi Vunivalu.
Brodie Croft is obviously a very special talent. There's the precocious Cameron Munster. The sizzling Josh Addo-Carr. And of course a host of senior players at the peak of their powers.
But back to my original point, and I don't necessarily base it just on their superb win/loss record of the last 12 months.
I simply love watching the Storm play. There is no other team I want to see more. In 2017, in my opinion, they were better to watch than in any of the many successful previous seasons in the club's history.
And when I then try and compare them on that entertainment level to the various premiers of the last 30 years; I might find the equivalent, but can't think of one better.
I loved the Wests Tigers' playing style in their 2005 charge to the title. The Penrith Panthers of 2003 with stars such as Rhys Wesser and Preston Campbell doing their thing were brilliant to see play. The Canberra Raiders team of the early 1990s is one I would say was the equivalent. Belcher, Meninga, Daley, Stuart, Clyde, Walters… wow, what a team.
And then to go back through the '80s and '70s, comparisons become harder because the game has changed dramatically since then. Yes I was enthralled by some of the great Parramatta Eels and Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs sides, but I don't have them as better to watch than the modern-day Storm.
From their chairman down to the CEO, coach, and captain… this is a great footy club.
Long may they reign.
I know Leeds were well beaten on the scoreboard but I saw enough of teenage fullback Jack Walker on the big stage to make the prediction he is going to be an absolute star for English rugby league.
Walker is just 18; has a grand final appearance already under his belt, and has cemented the fullback spot as his in very quick time.
Poor old referee Phil Bentham, one of the Super League's top whistleblowers, ended up the worse for wear in this week's Widnes v Warrington game.
If you missed it, Chris Houston collided at full pace with Bentham, resulting in the ref crashing to the ground and the back of his head slamming into the turf.
We have fun at our officials' expense sometimes but no one likes to see injuries, and we never intended compulsory concussion tests to include the referees.
Pass the sauce
I'll quote an unusual source to make my point here. Australian singer Ben Lee once sang, "We're all in this together."
And that's how it is in rugby league.
Call it a pipedream, but wouldn't it be great if all the stakeholders in rugby league could sit down at the one table and work out what is best for the code, and explore potential growth opportunities.
The World Cup last year and the last two weekends has been a taste of that. Strong international competition and a strong Super League are good for the sport. The NRL, as much as I love it, can't be the centre of the 'rugby league universe'.
As always, I welcome your feedback on the above topics.