The Storm have lost all-time great Billy Slater this year but coach Craig Bellamy says the impact of several young rising stars and improvement of two 2017 premiership winners has ensured the side has set continual standards of excellence.
Speaking after the Storm’s 40-4 win over the Broncos, Bellamy said it was “hard” to say whether this year’s team was better than the 2018 side that made the grand final, conceding losing the champion custodian “takes a bit of getting over”.
“We had Billy Slater last year and he was one of the all-time greats so that is probably drawing a long bow, but I can say the difference in our side this year to last year is that some of our young guys that played last year are better for the experience and have blossomed a touch,” Bellamy said.
“Some of the guys who have come into the team full-time are putting really good effort in and are learning as they go. They are making up for a little bit of inexperience with the amount of effort they are putting in.”
Speed demon Ryan Papenhuyzen and fullback Jahrome Hughes both scored against Brisbane in stellar displays while utility forward Brandon Smith packed a punch when he came on.
Giant prop Nelson Asofa-Solomona ran for 140 metres while Kenny Bromwich was devastating on the left edge in a two-try display which included three line breaks and a try assist.
Papenhuyzen makes it 40
“Papenhuyzen really adds something when he comes on the field and Hughes has done a great job,” Bellamy said.
“And when he hasn’t been there Papenhuyzen has taken over from him. Paps has played in a different role for us [off the bench] and has done that really well.
“The other guy that has done a really good job for us is Brandon. We always like the way he plays but he has gone up another step this year and adds something when he comes on the field.
"Nelson [Asofa-Solomona] is probably getting more consistent with his footy and that is when he can make a real difference.
“The other guy who has probably improved this year even though he is not a young guy is Kenny Bromwich. He is playing a different position this year and has done a really good job. He combines well with Munster and they have got a good combination going.”
Smith turns Welch back on the inside
Rampaging left centre Justin Olam also had an outstanding game with two slick passes setting up tries and 15 fearless runs gaining 139 metres for his side.
“He is a obviously a tough kid and the best part of his game at the moment is his physicality,” Bellamy said.
“He is not an overly big guy but he runs hard. There is certainly some tidying up he needs to do with some of his skillset but to his credit he has worked really hard on that and he is still working hard.
“The thing we wanted more from him tonight was more runs. We just wanted him to get the ball more and he certainly did that.
"There were a couple of errors around him so there are a couple of things he will still need to work on but certainly the Broncos right hand side knew he was out there tonight.”
The Storm bounced back in emphatic fashion from their golden point loss to Manly the previous week and the scary thing is that they can still improve.
“It was a really good response from our guys. They were very disappointed with last week, not so much with the effort but with the result,” Bellamy said.
“I was really happy with the way we defended but there are still some areas that we think we can improve on and hopefully we can.”