The Melbourne Storm were a class above their National Rugby League rivals in 2017, triumphing in the Grand Final after dominating throughout the regular season. Craig Bellamy’s side romped to the top of the NRL ladder by six points and most fans (as well as this website) tipped the Storm to go on and win the postseason accolade.
Twelve months on from losing to the Cronulla Sharks, Melbourne snagged a comprehensive 34-6 victory over the North Queensland Cowboys to notch a third Premiership crown. It could be more of the same next year if the Storm hit their stride early on in the season.
And it would take a brave man to back against the Storm in 2018. Keeping hold of Suliasi Vunivalu and Josh Addo-Carr was vital and Melbourne supporters will be excited to see both men in action at AAMI Park next year.
Scoring a combined 41 tries last season, the Storm duo are two of the strongest offensive players in the NRL. Bellamy will be expecting more of the same from his two superstars in 2018; Melbourne are arguably one of the most exciting franchises to watch and Vunivalu and Addo-Carr are both explosive talents.
Cooper Cronk, a key figure for Melbourne in years gone by, has moved on but Billy Slater and Cameron Smith will play on for another season. The Storm’s tremendous trio is now a delightful duo, but Melbourne fans will be confident of success.
Brodie Croft, still just 20 years old, has already shown glimpses of his boundless potential and he appears more than capable of stepping up to the plate in Cronk’s absence. Filling the Australian legend’s shoes may be an impossible task but Croft has the quality to mature into an elite star.
With the 2018 NRL season fast approaching, punters may be tempted to place an early bet on the Storm in case the odds shorten. You can find the latest promotions and betting tips via Champion Bets and Melbourne will feature prominently throughout the year.
As current title holders, everybody will be out to deny the Storm in 2018 but added competition may well spur Bellamy’s men on in their pursuit of glory. It would be foolish to write Melbourne off in the battle for supremacy in Australia’s elite rugby league competition – especially with so much talent on the roster.
Defensively, Melbourne are rock solid. Conceding just 336 points in the 2017 regular season was an impressive feat, made all the more impressive as the next best record was held by the Cronulla Sharks – the 2016 Grand Final champions allowed 407 points.
A potent offense and consistent defense is a recipe for success in itself but throwing Bellamy’s experience as an elite head coach into the mix is almost unfair. Even without Cronk, the Storm should still compete for silverware next year.
The NRL is still by far and away the strongest rugby league competition on the planet – and that makes Melbourne Storm up there with the best teams in the business, maybe even the greatest of all-time. After losing just three regular season fixtures in 2017, NRL fans are excited to see whether this current side can cope without Cronk.
In Slater and Smith, they have experience and in Croft, Addo-Carr and Vunivalu, they have star quality. A lot has been said about this ageing Melbourne squad but they aren’t finished yet – expect another push for glory in 2018.