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Storm fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen.

Cameron Smith has an eloquent way of summing up the new Melbourne Storm spine and how it operates.

"Both of our halves are runners and we joke about how we don’t really have a half in our team. We have got three fullbacks," Smith grinned when asked about the in-form spine after the 46-8 demolition of the Broncos on Friday night.

The veteran general controls the tempo from his hooking position but Cameron Munster and Jahrome Hughes have moulded their games to shine as halves after both playing as free-running fullbacks formerly.

"Munster’s preferred position is fullback but he is one of the best five-eighths in the competition. He has played at No.6 in Origin and for Australia, so he’s a pretty handy player," Smith said.

"Jahrome is a fullback as well but those two guys have been asked to play in those positions.

Match Highlights: Broncos v Storm

“We are lucky to have this guy at the back [Papenhuyzen] whose best attribute is running the ball. He has been fantastic all year. I think his support play has also been outstanding and that is one area he has really improved on this season."

Munster has all the skills and tricks in his kit-bag and Hughes has developed his own kicking and passing game, but Smith said their first instincts were also their best assets.

"That is what halves need to do, they need to run the football, take on the opposition defensive line and ask questions," he said.

"If they are not, then most sides tend to struggle."

Smith, who put on another masterclass agaionst Brisbane, was hailed by Johnathan Thurston on Friday night in Channel Nine commentary as the greatest player of all time. 

He has certainly played with some of the best spines seen in club football in the modern era.

Smith, Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk were the staples of Melbourne’s premiership teams, but the 37-year-old Storm skipper said the continuity of the current spine was a key to the side’s outstanding start to the 2020 season after nine wins from 11 games.

"The best thing for me about this spine is that it is quite settled this year," he said.

"We’ve had a lot of changes in the last few seasons, through 2018 and 2019, where we had multiple halfbacks and multiple fullbacks, and then it is really hard for the entire side to have any type of consistency or game plan because each time you bring a new player in they bring a different style of footy.

Bellamy can see similarities in work ethic between Slater and Papenhuyzen

"Ryan, myself, Jahrome Hughes and Cameron Munster had a full pre-season together which I felt was really important and we’ve played most of the games this season together.

"Cameron Munster has had a bit of an injury just recently and Jahrome Hughes was out for a couple of weeks with a hand injury but apart from that the four of us has been on the park."

The emergence of Papenhuyzen, who had another blinder at Suncorp Stadium, is no surprise to Smith who said he was reaping the benefits of hard work.

"I thoroughly enjoy working with Ryan," he said. "The great thing about Paps is that he works extremely hard during the week on his game and is always looking to improve.

The halfway mark: Tackle of the year

“That is the first thing that I look to in a young player -  that they want to be better and improve, that they are not just happy playing first grade in a Melbourne Storm jumper but that they want to be better.

"Paps is always studying his last performance and looking at previous training sessions, and then looking at ways to add to his game during the week."

Smith, who is yet to make a decision on his future beyond 2020, was quizzed on whether the Brisbane fans were asking him to "come home" to the city where he grew up playing for Logan Brothers, and finish his stellar career as a Bronco.

"No, they weren’t,"  he grinned.

"They were actually telling me to retire and 'give it away you old bugger'.

"On that topic I am just enjoying my footy at the moment and making sure we continue on the path we are on.

"I think that is five [wins] in a row for us now and we have a longer turnaround into Newcastle [on Sunday]. It is important we get that right and play well."

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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