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Preview 07: Melbourne Storm - Australian Rugby league News
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globalrugbyleague - Fri, 09 Mar 2007 10:34:00 GMT
Can the Melbourne Storm go one step further and win the 2007 NRL title? Will the Storm be the ``full blown'' tsunami or weaken into a rain depression? All important questions for an equally important year ahead.

Last year The Phantom tipped the Storm to play the Roosters in the grand final. I got one of the two teams correct yet Brisbane's big match experience and ability to rise and withstand pressure saw the Broncos win a sixth title.

Runners-up have a very poor record at winning the competition the next year.

Since rugby league was founded and the first competition held in 1908, only 10 teams have been able to lose a grand final and win the following season's premiership decider.

The last team to lose a grand final and win the crown the next season was Manly (1995, runners-up to the Bulldogs and premiers the following season defeating St George).

It is a difficult assignment to lose a grand final then try and win one, especially in the present era, where teams are very even and how the salary cap forces a dramatic change in personnel in the next two or three seasons.

Retaining a talented group of players for a long span is so hard under the financial constraints and the demand for top-shelf players.

Brisbane was the last team to win back-to-tiles (1992-93), Manly made three straight deciders (1995-97) and the Roosters appeared in three grand finals in a row (2002-04).

The Phantom believes the Storm are definitely, one of the class teams to challenge again this year.

Craig Bellamy is a superb coach, in his four seasons at the Storm, they have been consistent, played entertaining and expansive footy and the entire squad is extremely well drilled in all departments.

Young, unknown players such as Greg Inglis, Adam Blair, Billy Slater, Cameron Smith, Matt King, Cooper Cronk have established themselves as genuine class players.

This year, the Storm will be under the microscope of expectation.

Last year, they won the minor premiership by eight points and in the first three months ``flew underneath the radar'' surging to the lead and staying there.

Scott Hill, Jake Webster and David Kidwell are definite losses.

Greg Inglis is being trialed as a five-eighth, whether this works, time will tell.

Of the NRL clubs, Melbourne haven't had a great change in personnel and stability will be the key.

Early betting markets has the Storm as favourites and they probably deserve that title.


The drain to representative football could pose a problem with Queensland, NSW, Australian and Kiwi players in their ranks mid-season will test the men from south of the NSW border.

An examination of their squad shows depth, quality and true ability in the Storm ranks.

Players such as King, Michael Crocker, Ryan Hoffman, Steve Turner, Brett White, Garrett Cossman, Ian Donnelly, Blair, King, Slater, Inglis, Smith, Cronk and Matt Geyer, represent a talented group of individuals.

The true strength of the Storm has been their ability to function as a team. Bellamy has a fairly straight forward gameplan which works.

His forwards literally play ``forward'' or straight ahead, work on quick-play-the-balls, which allows their halves to take the ball right to the line and look for fast-moving supports running into holes.

The Storm run decoy and angle plays extremely well, especially near inside an opponent's 20m zone which confuses the defence, forcing players into two minds, whether to ``hold'' , ``slide'' ``advance'' or drift backwards.

Melbourne also work the blindside or ``short side'' in attack very well _ often stacking the restricted area with a centre or back-rower, isolating defenders.

The Phantom rates the Storm and believes ``top four'' is a given.

But I am prepared to say they will not win the competition this year and believe they won't make the grand final.

History somehow repeats itself in rugby league and the runners-up ``curse'' somehow manages to defy most teams going the next step from one year to another.

Coach: Craig Bellamy
CEO: Brian Waldron
Finishing Position: Third

Gains: Anthony Quinn (Knights), Russell Aitken (Sharks), Danny Vaughan (Knights), Israel Falou (Brisbane Norths), Liam Foran (North Sydney), Matt Rua (Central Comets), Sika Manu (Brisbane Norths), Ben Matterson (Brisbane Norths).

Losses: Dennis Scott (retired), Jamie Feeney (retired), Scott Hill (London Broncos), David Kidwell (Rabbitohs), Jake Webster (Titans), Nathan Friend (Titans), Chris Walker (Titans) and Grand Final (Brisbane)

Melbourne Storm Squad: Russell Aitken, Scott Anderson, James Aubusson, Mathew Bartlett, Adam Blair, Michael Crocker, Cooper Cronk, Ben Cross, Garrett Crossman, Ian Donnelly, Israel Folou, Matt Geyer, Ryan Hoffman, Greg Inglis, Dallas Johnson, Antonio Kaufusi, Matt King, Anthony Quinn, Ryan Shortland, Billy Slater, Cameron Smith, Jeremy Smith, Sam Tagataese, Steve Turner and Brett White. - Read More, Here