Predicted Finish: 2nd
Actual Finish: 1st
Best Performer: Cameron Smith
Another season, another plethora of rugby league records. I’ve seen enough to state right now, that Cameron Smith is the best player I’ve ever seen. EVER!!! Johns and Lockyer were great, Meninga and Fittler very good, but Cameron Smith is an absolute genius. Cam Smith has racked up some of the most impressive numbers and stats in the history of the game, but he’s a player who transcends stats. No one can measure the influence the future immortal has on every team he plays in. He creates plenty of tries, makes a mountain of tackles, but it is his vision that is unmatched. How many times do the likes of Cronk or Munster create something out wide due to simple numbers? Smith is the man who creates those numbers. A Dally M medal and Golden Boot were just reward for arguably the greatest player of all time’s greatest year yet.
Season Highlight: Grand Final redemption
The two-point Grand Final loss in 2016 could have had a very negative effect on the Storm. Clubs have lost Grand Finals by narrow margins and have fallen away as a result. Then again, this Storm outfit is not like any other ordinary team. Not only did they overcome any demons stemming from the loss, they buried them!!! Make no mistake, the Storm was not losing the 2017 Grand Final. They decided that the second they returned to pre-season training for 2017, and nobody was able to stop them. As a contest, the 2017 Grand Final was an absolute nightmare, but in terms of what the Storm deserved, they delivered in spades. No team deserved a huge Grand Final triumph like this side. You’d be a braver man than I am to bet against a third straight Grand Final appearance next year too.
Best Signing: Patrick Kaufusi
Craig Bellamy has an unmatched record when it comes to signing solid NRL players and turning them into stars. He turned Cronulla reserve grader Bryan Norrie into a premiership-winning prop, he’s made Addo Carr a genuine NSW bolter, the list goes on. I’m really excited to see what he can do with 23-year-old Patrick Kaufusi. The former Cowboy has plenty of aggression and talent, and I’m willing to bet that he is a far improved player by this time next year. Jordan McLean has exited meaning there is a prop position available. I would not at all be surprised if Kaufusi is slotted straight in.
Massive re-signings: Whenever a side tastes success, player value goes up and inevitably stars are lost to other sides who can afford to pay more. The Cowboys managed to avoid the purge, the Sharks have done pretty well, and the Storm have continued the trend in that they’ve managed to retain a majority of their stars. Cooper Cronk, Tohu Harris and Jordan McLean have exited the club, but they’ve managed to re-sign the likes of Addo Carr, Asofa-Solomona, Blair, Chambers, Bromwich (x2), Finucane, Kaufusi, Vunivalu, Jacks, Croft and Slater. That’s incredible work from the Storm recruitment and retention team. There were plenty of clubs interested in most, if not all of the aforementioned players but all chose to extend their tenure with the now defending premiers.
One more year for Billy: It was probably never in doubt but Billy Slater has decided on one more season at the Storm. It would have been a shame to lose two members of the famous ‘big three’ in one hit, Slater’s re-signing prevents this. Although going out with a Grand Final victory would be been perfect and well deserved, there is plenty left in the Storm, Queensland and Kangaroos superstar number one yet. He had a magical World Cup and was among the Storm’s best all season.
Pretty much everything: The Storm won the Minor Premiership by a mile. They ran riot on Grand Final day and flogged the in-form side of the competition. They sent Cooper Cronk out a champion, re-signed possible future immortal Billy Slater, and I had to literally google their last loss. 2017 was as close to a perfect season as you can achieve in modern-day rugby league. Often you see sides dominate for weeks or even months, but the Storm dominated from day one till the first day in October.
Season Grading: A+
How else can you put it other than the Storm were dominant and deserving 2017 premiers!? Literally from round one where they beat the Bulldogs at Belmore, until their 34-6 drubbing of the red-hot Cowboys on Grand Final day, the Storm were head and shoulders above the rest.
They lost only four games across the entire season, and one of those was a golden point loss to the Roosters during Origin. They only lost two non-Origin effected games, by a total combined points total of 11. That is pure insanity.
There was no weakness in this 2017 Storm outfit. From 1-17 they were among the best in the competition, with the best number nine of all time pulling the strings.
Felise Kaufusi had a magical season which led to his selection in the Kangaroos side for the World Cup tournament. Dale Finucane is arguably the most underrated forward in the game. Vunivalu would be right up there in terms of the best wingers in the world right now. Will Chambers is the first centre picked at every level of the game.
The Storm managed to turn Josh Addo-Carr from an occasional first grader into arguably the most exciting outside back in the game. I lost count of how many times I found myself standing in amazement after yet another freakish Addo-Carr break and/or try.
Simply put I can’t remember a better side than the 2017 Storm outfit. They’re A+ in defence, they’re A+ in attack, their recruitment is A+. For mine, Craig Bellamy has FAR surpassed Bennett as the best coach of the modern era. The way he finds, develops and unleashed freakish talents with regularity is astounding.
If there were a higher grade that A+ the Storm would have it for 2017. Magical.