The Melbourne Storm are great, not boring

Ryan O'Connell Columnist

By , Ryan O'Connell is a Roar Expert

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    The Melbourne Storm ran roughshod over the North Queensland Cowboys in Sunday night’s NRL grand final, capping off a season of absolute dominance with an exclamation mark.

    The Storm were the best team in 2017 from start to finish, only losing four games all year. They scored the most points in the NRL, and allowed the fewest, meaning they were the best attacking and defensive team in the competition. Then they stormed – pardon the pun – home to the premiership by winning the preliminary final 30-0, and the grand final 34-6.

    Such absolute domination can lead to certain fans feeling a little bored. Those who crave parity, competition and close games wouldn’t have enjoyed the predictability of Sunday’s, and the season’s, result.

    Yet there remained another narrative, that the Storm themselves were somehow boring as well; a sentiment that surfaced again as they were crowned premiers on Sunday.

    It’s an opinion that bemuses me, as I struggle to understand how anyone could find Melbourne’s style of football boring. I think they’re the most exciting team in the competition, and I suspect much of the criticism that comes their way is simply because many people don’t like them.

    Not liking the Storm, I can understand, even if I personally have no issue with them.

    For many, they’ll always be the upstarts from a non-rugby league town, and the parochial nature within a lot of Australian’s psyches ensures they’ll never warm to the Storm because of it. I don’t agree with it, but I get it.

    For others, Melbourne’s chequered past when it comes to cheating the salary cap – and being stripped of two of their premierships – is too big of a hurdle to overcome in the likability sweepstakes, and again, I can appreciate that.

    NSW fans have been on the wrong end of an historic State of Origin dynasty, and some of Queensland’s chief architects in that supremacy are Melbourne’s spine of Cameron Smith, Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk. Needless to say, that doesn’t exactly endear the Storm to the majority of New South Welshmen.

    Then there are those individuals who dislike Melbourne simply because they win a lot, while their own team – conversely – does not.

    All are valid reasons to give the men in purple a stink eye.

    However, when someone raises the point that Melbourne are boring, I have to call a time-out, and delve a little deeper into that viewpoint. Once you do, the words ‘clinical’, ‘robotic’, ‘structured’, ‘methodical’, ‘wrestling’, ‘grubby’ and ‘cheats’ invariably come out.

    You can essentially break those words into two distinct camps.

    ‘Wrestling’, ‘grubby’ and ‘cheats’ falls into a category I would call ‘rugby league’, in that I think you could level those charges against every single team in the NRL.

    I don’t think Melbourne are outliers in any of those departments, it’s just that the aforementioned reasons for people not to like the Storm ensures fans see what they want to see when watching Melbourne play. It’s a case of confirmation bias to suggest the Storm are the only team that wrestle, or do grubby things on the field, or give away tactical penalties.

    (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

    If you look for those things, you’ll find them in every rugby league game, and people certainly want to find them when watching the Storm.

    In the other camp lies the words ‘clinical’, ‘robotic’, ‘structured’ and ‘methodical’, and this is where you could argue things get subjective or down to personal taste.

    Much of this criticism is thinly veiled at Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith.

    I actually love the brilliant execution of Cronk at halfback. He may not be as flashy as other number 7s, but he’s a lot more effective and successful. He’s far less likely to throw a no-look flick pass, but he almost always calls the right play at the exact right time. He’s measured, thoughtful and precise, and that comes with it’s own appeal.

    Likewise, Smith is more workhorse than showpony. While other hookers may dart from dummy-half with blistering pace, or move to first-receiver and consider themselves a playmaker with flair, Smith concentrates on getting through a lot of work, limiting his mistakes, and playing a cerebral game to beat his opponents.

    Neither may show up regularly in rugby league’s highlight reels, but neither will they care. They’d much prefer to be on the honour boards, and that’s exactly where they’ll be. Smith will leave the game as the best hooker – and arguably the best player – to have ever laced up a pair of boots, and Cronk will be mentioned among the best halfbacks.

    I don’t find the play of either of them boring whatsoever, but if you do, that’s your prerogative.

    What I can’t understand is finding the rest of the Storm roster boring.

    The brilliance and class of Billy Slater, Cameron Munster and Will Chambers qualifies them among the most exciting players in the competition. Wingers Josh Addo-Carr and Suliasi Vunivalu scored 21 and 23 tries respectively this season. Meanwhile, forwards are rarely flashy anyway, but Tohu Harris, Jesse Bromwich, Jordan McLean, Dale Finucane and Felise Kaufusi formed a formidable and impressive forward pack that terrorised opponents all year long.

    Billy Slater Melbourne Storm NRL Rugby League Grand Final 2017

    (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

    There was nothing boring about these guys, and I fear any judgment of that sort comes through heavily tinted glasses. Not of the rose-coloured variety either.

    It seems Melbourne will always have to overcome some baggage in order to get some credit or praise.

    As a case in point, Gus Gould – still heavily respected in some rugby league circles – labelled the Storm ‘overrated’ in the lead up to the grand final. Considering the Storm made the grand final last year, were six-point clear minor premiers this season, only lost four games, and were coming off a 30-0 drubbing of the Brisbane Broncos to qualify for the grand final, it was a stupid comment that, sadly, is now becoming Gould’s speciality.

    It was made to look even worse at the end of Sunday’s game, and it was the type of comment that has to be put down to irrational dislike, because you couldn’t make it under any pretence of rational thought.

    So, rationally thinking, are the Storm overrated? Robotic? Boring?

    No. They’re just great.

    Ryan O
    Ryan O'Connell

    Ryan is an ex-representative basketballer who shot too much, and a (very) medium pace bowler. He's been with The Roar as an expert since February 2011, has written for the Seven Network, and been a regular on ABC radio. Ryan tweets from @RyanOak.