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Storm anoint Smith successors among new leaders

Melbourne have anointed Jesse Bromwich and Dale Finucane as the leading captaincy successors to Cameron Smith by naming the pair as the club's first vice-captains in over a decade.

Smith will retain his status as the game's most decorated leader across his next two years at the Storm, with Bromwich and Finucane to take on extra off-field duties as part of a revamped five-man leadership group.

Star centre Will Chambers and workhorse Kenny Bromwich make up the rest of the leadership group, which is tasked with filling the 744-game void left last year by the exits of Billy Slater, Ryan Hoffman and Tim Glasby.

Bromwich, 29, has long been considered the front-runner to replace Smith, with Craig Bellamy backing him as a future Storm captain immediately after he was stripped of the same honour by New Zealand over cocaine use in 2017.

Finucane, 27, is also widely respected within the club and like Bromwich is contracted until the end of 2021 – when both players will be in their 30s.

"We realise that Cameron isn't going to play forever so we think we'd like to give a couple of our players the chance to experience what an NRL captain goes through," Bellamy said at Thursday's announcement.

"It's important those two guys have an understanding of those (off-field) commitments when it comes their turn to lead the club.

Storm announce 2019 leadership group

"… Jesse and Dale have proven to be great leaders for us over several seasons and their appointment as joint vice-captains was received very well by the playing group."

Melbourne has not had an official vice-captain since 2007 when Smith was elevated from co-captaincy duties.

Smith has since led the Storm in an NRL record 281 games and is closing in on an unprecedented 400 appearances after inking a new two-year deal earlier this month.

Throughout his protracted contract negotiations Smith said he did not consider relinquishing the captain's armband, but did suggest sharing the off-field workload midway through last season.

As well as the new senior leadership group, Joe Stimson, Christian Welch, Felise Kaufusi and Sandor Earl have all been included in the Storm's emerging leaders program for 2019.

Melbourne's leadership coach and ex-Collingwood champion Nick Maxwell is set to take on a greater role at the club as the Storm continues its post-Big Three evolution.

"Maxi has been working really closely with our playing group and, in his fifth season, we are definitely seeing the benefits of having him around the club," Bellamy said.

"This season, for the first time, Maxi will be working with both leadership groups rather than just the emerging leaders."

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