Yesterday, we crowned Alastair Clarkson the coach of the decade in the AFL. Today, it’s rugby league’s turn as we look to crown a coach of the decade in the NRL.
When the Melbourne Storm reached the pinnacle of rugby league in 2012, many people thought their reign would continue.
A very strong 2013 season was upstaged by a reasonably weak finals series, which saw the Newcastle Knights end their hopes before the preliminary final.
2014 was possibly the lowest season for the Storm under the reign of Craig Bellamy. Constant issues in defence, a lack of consistency and positional change battles within the squad, the Storm’s campaign in 2014 was far from impressive.
2015 saw the Storm come in with no expectations and an ageing team. Key losses of forward stalwarts Bryan Norrie and Ryan Hoffman and crowd favourite Sisa Waqa saw the Storm needing to fill in gaps quickly. The additions of Dale Finucane and Blake Green did not bring many expectations.
With the loss of two starting forwards, bench forwards Jordan McLean and Tohu Harris were asked to step up to start, adding a quick and large forward pack – something they have lacked as of late. All this, but the expectations weren’t flowing in for the Storm.
As we stand now, after seven rounds of football, the Storm are top of the table, with five wins and two losses. The question seems remains, “Can the Melbourne Storm prove people wrong, again”?
When you have three of the top six players in the competition in one outfit, you will always be competitive. This year however, the Storm’s ‘other players’ are proving important and vital to their success.
Prop Jesse Bromwich remains a top three prop in the competition, and his work rate has just stepped up a level. Tohu Harris, Dale Finucane and Kevin Proctor have formed a strong, very formidable back row, who definitely don’t lack size to go against bigger packs.
Blake Green has been a revelation in the six jersey, proving a definite, strong second option under Cronk. William Chambers continues to prove he is the best right side centre in the competition. The player who has surprised everyone is Marika Koroibete.
The flying Fijian has bedazzled defence lines and has lit the rugby league up. Constant threat with ball in hand, his defensive work and his aerial attack, have all contributed to his strong start.
And then there’s the big three.
Cameron Smith is without a shadow of a doubt, the best leader in the NRL and the smartest player also. Copper Cronk continues to show his worth, with clinical performances steering the side around and the evergreen Billy Slater has shown why he is still the king of fullbacks.
The Storm have relied on smaller, fitter forwards in the past, which has worked for them so clearly. As of last year, teams have added size to their packs, which has caused the Storm pack some problems.
With the added size of Finucane, Harris and role players such as Glasby and Kaufusi, the Storm pack are as big as any in the competition.
The youngsters coming thru these grades are undeniable. Kurt Mann has been solid as ever starting at centre, and young gun Cameron Munster has been special, filling in for Slater at the back.
The team seem to have found that mojo to grind games out, doing so to win two consecutive games against the Raiders and the Roosters. The playmaking in 2014, was solely left for Cooper Cronk, with the constant shuffle of five-eighths he was paired with. Blake Green has provided that steady option, and has again, sparked up the left side edge attack with Harris, Mann and Koroibete.
The detail to the game plan has once again sparked up, with the Storm finding their offensive mojo more and more with every game played. Defensive lines seem as desperate as ever, and the offence can only continue to get better.
With many young players coming through the grades, the Storm have many options to cover and use as back up.
A revitalised outfit, from the somewhat lacsidasical 2014 side, the Storm have fixed the problems and issues they had previously. The pack was too small last year and they had no second-option playmaker, a hole Green has filled superbly.
If the offence fires, like only the Storm’s offence can fire, the side is a real threat.
With the best skipper in the business leading, along with one of the best coaches in the NRL – the Storm are primed to make a vital push towards the NRL title in 2015.
Watch out for the Storm in 2015, they look revitalised and primed for a good push throughout September.