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Legitimate titles or not, who makes the Melbourne Storm’s greatest ever team of grand final winners?

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Roar Guru
16th January, 2024
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1449 Reads

No club has played in more grand finals in the NRL era than the Melbourne Storm.

They’ve won six grand finals, beginning with their first premiership in just the second year of their existence in 1999, they won again in both 2007 and 2009 only to have those premierships subsequently stripped due to salary cap breaches, then bounced back to be victorious in 2012, 2017 and 2020.

They also finished runners-up in 2006, 2008, 2016 and 2018, so that’s six wins from ten starts overall. Impressive stuff.

Melbourne have had some outstanding players in their grand final winning teams, and here’s my pick for their team of the greatest grand final winners ever.

Billy Slater and Captain Cameron Smith hold the NRL Premiership trophy

Billy Slater and Cameron Smith with the Storm’s 2009 Premiership trophy, later stripped for salary cap cheating. (Photo by Robert Prezioso/Getty Images)

Fullback

Billy Slater is the obvious choice here. Arguably the Storm’s greatest ever player behind Cameron Smith, but also one of the best fullbacks ever to play the game. He played in 4 of Melbourne’s 6 grand final victories, winning the Clive Churchill Medal in both 2009 and 2017. As good as Robbie Ross (1999) was and Ryan Papenhuyzen (2020) is, they’ll never overtake Slater.

Wingers

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Choosing the wingers is not so easy. Do you go with the pace and try scoring ability of 2017 and 2020’s wing pairing in Josh Addo-Carr and Suliasi Vunivalu, the dependable types like Steve Turner (2007 and 2009) and Anthony Quinn (2007), or the power and excitement of Marcus Bai (1999)?

Josh Addo-Carr played his best football during his time at Melbourne, and with his pace and flair for the unusual has to be on the end of this stellar backline. I can’t go past Papua New Guinea international Marcus Bai for the other spot, as his powerful running had the crowd on their feet every time he touched the ball.

Centres

Leaving the unique skills of Israel Folau (2007) and the power game of Justin Olam (2020) aside, the two stand out centres are clearly Greg Inglis and Will Chambers. Inglis kicked off his career with Melbourne as an 18-year-old in 2005 and played in their grand final wins in 2007 and 2009, winning the Clive Churchill Medal in 2007 when he lined up at 5/8. He was one of the best outside backs of the NRL era.

Will Chambers is sometimes forgotten when discussing Storm greats but certainly not by his opponents. There was nothing Chambers enjoyed more than getting under his opponent’s skin and putting them off their game. Chambers won grand finals with Melbourne in 2009, 2012 and 2017.

Cam Munster

Cam Munster. (Photo by Graham Denholm/Getty Images)

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Five-eighth

With 2007 grand final hero Greg Inglis in the centres, Cameron Munster takes the 5/8 role. Munster is a fixture in both the Queensland and Australian teams and won premierships with Melbourne in 2017 and 2020.

Halfback

Only three players have worn the number 7 jersey in winning Storm grand final teams; Brett Kimmorley way back in 1999, Cooper Cronk in 2007, 2009, 2012 and 2017, and Jahrome Hughes in 2020.

You just can’t go past Cronk for halfback, as he won the Clive Churchill medal in 2012 and was no less responsible for Melbourne’s success over the years than Billy Slater and Cameron Smith. Had he not defected to the Roosters in 2018 perhaps it would have been Melbourne rather than the Roosters who won the 2018 and 2019 premierships?

Lock Forward

Melbourne have had some great lock forwards contribute to their grand final successes over the years including Kiwi star Tawera Nikau (1999), the ever-reliable Dale Finucane (2017 and 2020), and Todd Lowrie (2012), but I can’t go past the punishing Dallas Johnson (2007 and 2009) for the number 13 jersey. Johnson was a tireless worker in both attack and defence and never gave an inch.

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Cameron Smith NRL Rugby League Melbourne Storm Grand Final 2017

The Storm celebrate their 2017 premiership. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Second Rowers

I’ve gone with Ryan Hoffman (2007, 2009 and 2012) for his high work rate and excellent all-round game, together with Adam Blair (2009), a big weapon who could break any defence open and loved dominating the opposition. Tohu Harris finds himself on the bench and players the calibre of Paul Marquet (1999), Stephen Kearney (1999), Felise Kaufusi (2017 and 2020), and Kenny Bromwich (2017 and 2020) can consider themselves unlucky to miss out.

Front Rowers

There are two standout contenders for the starting front row positions with the rest being mentioned in the bench selections. Glen Lazarus, captain in 1999, and Jesse Bromwich (2012, 2017 and 2020) are both easy selections.

Lazarus was pretty much the best in the business during his career and it was no fluke that he won premierships with both Canberra and Brisbane before bringing his magic touch to the Storm. Jesse Bromwich was rated as the best front rower in the world for much of his career and set the standard for the Storm pack for most of his time at the club.

Hooker

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Cameron Smith, captain in five of Melbourne’s six grand final victories. Do we really need to discuss this?

Cameron Smith of the Storm poses with the Premiership trophy

Cameron Smith with the 2020 NRL Premiership trophy. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Bench

In selecting the bench I’ve gone for a utility player, a backrower, and two front rowers.

Utility: Ryan Hinchcliffe played off the bench in Melbourne’s victories in both 2009 and 2012, and was highly regarded by coach Craig Bellamy, playing nearly 180 games for the club.
Backrower: Tohu Harris played in their 2017 victory and the giant Kiwi was a big loss to the club when he headed to the Warriors the following year.
Front Rowers: The likes of Rodney Howe (1999), Aiden Tolman (2009 and 2012), Jordan McLean (2017) and Christian Welch (2020) are all worthy contenders to be in this side somewhere, but my preference is for a couple of mean hombres in Brett White (2007 and 2009) and Nelson Asofa-Solomona (2017 and 2020).

Two players who just don’t like the opposition. By all reports, White was a much nicer fellow off the field than on it, and no one in their right mind wants to see big Nelson trotting out for the opposition when you’ve just spent 30-odd minutes trying to contain both Lazarus and Bromwich.

Lineup

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1. Billy Slater
2. Josh Addo-Carr
3. Greg Inglis
4. Will Chambers
5. Marcus Bai
6. Cameron Munster
7. Cooper Cronk
8. Glen Lazarus
9. Cameron Smith
10. Jesse Bromwich
11. Ryan Hoffman
12. Adam Blair
13. Dallas Johnson
14. Ryan Hinchcliffe
15. Tohu Harris
16. Nelson Asofa-Solomona
17. Brett White

So, there they are, my pick of the greatest Melbourne players to win a grand final with the club. They’d certainly take some beating – and the quality of the side is underlined by the host of great players who didn’t make the cut.

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