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Josh Addo-Carr and Storm teammates celebrate.

Considering the good ship SS Melbourne Storm had a huge off-season hole blasted through its hull with the departure of halfback Cooper Cronk at the end of 2017, they found calm water for much of 2018.

The Storm managed to string together 16 wins from 24 games - the same as eventual premiers the Roosters - without the services of the man who previously pulled most of the strings in attack.

Cronk helped Melbourne to seven grand finals before leading the Roosters to a second title in six years.

The fact coach Craig Bellamy used four different halfbacks shows the hole Cronk left at No.7.

But Melbourne still made an eighth grand final without him. They will try to make a ninth in 2019, this time without fullback Billy Slater. If they manage that it will be a fourth grand final in a row for the second time in the club's history after 2006-09.

Melbourne Storm: 2018 by the numbers

Melbourne's ability to patch up the holes and right the ship after key departures is a credit to them and their culture. The man behind that doesn't strap on the boots weekly but he's vital to the outfit's success - Bellamy.

His contract extension signed in June (until the end of 2021) means Storm's run of success isn't ending any time soon.

Making the 2018 Telstra Premiership grand final took a lot of courage. They lost double the number of games (eight to four) compared with their stellar 2017. But they always remained a threat despite the wounds Cronk left, along with Tohu Harris (Warriors), Jordan McLean (Cowboys) and Slade Griffin (Knights).

Home & Away record

8-4 home, 8-4 away

The Storm were a little more vulnerable away from AAMI Park this season after they won 11 games on the road in 2017.

"If you compare it to 2017 we only lost one game away and that was by a point [25-24 to Roosters in Adelaide, Round 16]," Bellamy told

"I'm happy with 8-4 as that's a pretty good result by any measure. If someone said that would be your away record then most sides would be pretty happy to grab that," he said.

"The year before was pretty special – to win 11 away - I'd also describe that as fairly unusual for the NRL in recent years."

Leading try scorers

Four of the top-five men to score four-pointers in 2018 will still be with Storm in 2019 - the exception being Slater, who has retired after 16 seasons in the NRL.

Wingers Josh Addo-Carr (17) and Suliasi Vunivalu (13) again led the way. Although Slater's contribution (7) was slightly down on his average - he reached double figures in 13 of his 16 years - his finesse at fullback will be sorely missed.

"With Billy gone that takes a lot of experience out of our attack so we know that's a real issue for us," Bellamy said.

"He's been there 16 years so that's a hole that will be hard to fill, but that's what we're faced with so we'll deal with it.

"We have a lot of confidence in Jahrome Hughes and young Scotty Drinkwater. Between them, they'll do a good job there but you just can't replace Billy Slater in 12 months.

"It will be an area we'll have to work hard on. Apart from Cameron [Smith] most of our spine is very young anyway so now they have the chance to develop together and build up their combinations."

Post-contact metres

Considering the grunt up front for Storm, there's no surprise forwards like Jesse Bromwich, Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Dale Finucane and Ryan Hoffman led the way. Vunivalu forced his way into the top-five at his club to break up the forwards' domination.

But at 42.6m average per game, Bromwich still wasn't good enough to crack the top-10 in the NRL - the best was Jason Taumalolo (75.8metres) with the 10th-best player being Aaron Woods (54.7m).

Try scoring - attacking channels

The tries scored in all five areas reached double-figures for Storm showing their danger across the park. 

Vunivalu and Curtis Scott ran riot on the left, while Addo-Carr and Will Chambers weren't far behind on the right with players like Felise Kaufusi taking care of business in the middle.

Tries conceded - defending channels

Storm's left might have been a points manufacturing machine but they also leaked 20 tries - or around double the other field areas.

"Obviously there's something going on there – having a fair few more than the other side is a bit of an issue," Bellamy said.

"We'll be looking at that but sometimes things change through injuries and you have to pick other blokes in those positions. But we'll have a system in place next year and make that system work."

Tries conceded from penalties

This was the Storm's area to shone. Letting in 21 tries ranked them equal with the Dragons as the stingiest in the NRL for this category.

The most penalised Storm player was not one of their barnstorming forwards, but Test five-eighth Cameron Munster with 20, followed by Asofa-Solomona and skipper Smith.

"It does surprise me but it's not something I'm worried about," Bellamy said of Munster's indiscretions.

"I will have a look at it to see if they were an even range of penalties or something that stood out. I'd imagine getting off-side would be the main one but like I said, nothing struck me throughout the year with his play that I found alarming at all."

Metres gained from offloads

Storm finished ninth in the NRL for the number of offloads (behind the Sharks) and 11th for metres gained from the ball carry after the offload. 

Yet three players from Storm - Smith, Kaufusi and Christian Welch - had a 100% effective success rate from their offloads.

That man Vunivalu topped his club in the number of metres made by his teammates from his offloading at 151.8metres.

Goal-kicking accuracy

Cameron Smith and Brodie Croft - the Storm's two leading goalkickers - had a far better success rate with penalties (94.1%) than try conversions (76.5%). Smith as the main kicker had an 82% accuracy. The NRL leader was Bulldogs forward Rhyse Martin (94.7%).

Still, Storm's kicking was well above the top-four average of 71.5%.

Holding onto the ball

This stat is very un-Storm like, with Bellamy's team falling below the NRL average for set completions in 12 of the 25 rounds. 

The highest possession rate was 61% in round 25 and the lowest was 43% in round 11. Storm won 10 of the 12 games when they had more than 50% possession.

The figures were influenced by the fact Storm made an average 10.6 errors per game - compared with the NRL average of 10.0. They were equal third worst with the Cowboys (255) in the total errors for the season - behind the Roosters (276) and Titans (263).

"Our completion rate was too low in my opinion and I think that tipped into why we were so high up in the most errors in the competition," Bellamy said.

"We certainly want to be cutting down those errors next year. I'm not sure if they're mainly kicking errors but that's an area I want us to be better next year without a doubt."

Hughes proves a handful at fullback

Jahrome Hughes enjoyed an average kick-return haul of 64.2m per game, putting him at the top of the NRL in front of a host of stars like Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (fourth with 55.9m), James Tedesco (fifth with 54.9m) and above Will Hopoate (second with 59.2m).

"That stat shows what he's capable of and he didn't play a lot of fullback this year (six times in 11 games)," Bellamy said.

"Still it's another reason why I want to start him at fullback and with Scott having a go there too, I'll let those two fight it out and see how we go from there."

Four men played in the No.7 jersey - Ryley Jacks, Drinkwater, Brodie Croft and Hughes - as Bellamy juggled Cronk's replacement.

But the two-time premiership-winning coach says it will be a two-horse race for Slater's position.

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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