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Passing Storm: Are Melbourne the 2020 Roosters reincarnate?

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Roar Rookie
26th May, 2022
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The Melbourne Storm have been the NRL gold standard for the best part of a decade, but that gold sheen is starting to fade as the hangover of Cameron Smith’s departure finally starts to emerge.

Comparisons to the Sydney Roosters of 2020 are fast emerging, as this was the Trent Robinson juggernaut widely tipped to take out an unprecedented threepeat of premierships, but just couldn’t put it together.

After two very uncharacteristic floggings at the hands of the Penrith Panthers and the North Queensland Cowboys, the normally self-assured Storm look out of sorts.

With the omission of superstar fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen and New Zealand halfback Jahrome Hughes these past few weeks, marquee five-eighth Cameron Munster lamented that Craig Bellamy’s troops “looked like under-12s” in the wake of their dreadful loss to the Panthers, but many dismissed it as a blip on the radar.

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What was troubling was the following week’s effort, a dreadful display against the high-flying Cowboys, who have become the feelgood story of the year.

Usually a Storm side littered with battle-hardened internationals and Origin stars, would be hungry to make amends after a trouncing at the hands of a title heavyweight. Melbourne just couldn’t muster the courage to keep up with the youthful enthusiasm of Todd Payten’s squad in the second half, North Queensland turning a 12-6 halftime lead into a 36-6 demolition.

Pairing these losses with a thrilling golden-point loss to premiership hopefuls the Parramatta Eels, the Storm’s season is fast beginning to mirror that of the 2020 Chooks.

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The Roosters came into 2020 looking an ominous prospect. Off the back of two title wins in a row, it wasn’t immediately obvious to many that the back-to-back premiers just couldn’t beat other top sides, but the signs were always there.

Losing two in a row to start the title defence was never ideal, but the COVID lockdown seemed to unlock them and they came out firing after the layoff, stringing together five wins and looking a different beast again.

However, they still had trouble getting over the hump against the best teams, losing to eventual premiers Melbourne twice, and getting absolutely trounced by South Sydney during the final round of the regular season.

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The Tricolours were then bundled out in straight sets in the finals, losing a tight qualifying final to Penrith, and then again to the 2019 runners-up, the Canberra Raiders, a team that they also floundered against mid-season.

Take no disrespect from the accomplishments of that team, as they finished fouth on the ladder in a stacked top eight, but their ladder position flattered a lack of polish during the year, magnified against the best teams at the business end.

So what say you for the 2022 Melbourne team?

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They are certainly not a lost cause by any means, but with a large contingent either injured or set for Origin selection in the coming weeks, the Storm will have to dig to depths not often uncovered to try and recover their season.

Having lost to two of the teams most favoured alongside them for the title, the Eels and Panthers, the warning signs are growing that Craig Bellamy’s squad, while still outstanding, don’t have the killer instinct to put away sides that they held in the past.

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Their run home isn’t exactly favourable either. Two games against the high-flying Broncos, including a fixture in the middle of the Origin period, led by a resurgence from new signing Adam Reynolds and new kid on the block Selwyn Cobbo.

Their Round 22 match against Penrith will be a good barometer of where they sit heading into the business end, while a mouth-watering clash against Parramatta in the final round of the season could be the difference between a home semi at AAMI Park or a trip back up to Sydney for Week 1.

The writing is on the wall for this Melbourne team, and it’s not looking pretty. With a significant core either heading north to the Dolphins next year or off contract, anything less than a premiership this year will be dubbed a failure.

And if recent history shows, it’s their exact path right now.

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