MACKAY, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 02: Cameron Munster of the Storm runs the ball during the NRL Trial match between the Melbourne Storm and the North Queensland Cowboys on March 02, 2019 in Mackay, Australia. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

The Storm enter 2019 with only one of their big three remaining.

Can the Storm’s other stars step up to keep the juggernaut rolling?

2019 Gains

Tom Eisenhuth (Penrith Panthers, 2020), Marion Seve (Brisbane Broncos, 2020), Albert Vete (New Zealand Warriors, 2020)

2019 Losses

Louis Geraghty (released), Tim Glasby (Newcastle Knights), Ryan Hoffman (retired), Ryley Jacks (Gold Coast Titans), Billy Slater (retired), Lachlan Timm (St George Illawarra Dragons), Young Tonumaipea (released)

2018 Recap

The Storm finished second in the regular season, losing out on yet another Minor Premiership on points differential only after dropping a game to Penrith in the final round after resting players.

They made it through to a third straight Grand Final, and although they were outplayed in a big way really, they recorded another brilliant season.

Billy Slater’s retirement will obviously have a huge effect on the club moving forward given he was still at his very best in 2018, but the improvement in the likes of Addo-Carr and Curtis Scott were amazing.

Addo-Carr became a New South Wales rep and will hold that wing spot for as long as he wants it. Curtis Scott backed up his title-winning 2017 with increased workload last year.

Despite the loss at the final hurdle, the Storm had a brilliant 2018 and are well placed moving forward despite the loss of Slater and Origin rep Tim Glasby.

Best Recruit: Albert Vete

Although Vete arrived in 2018, playing the one NRL game, his impact will be felt far more in 2019.

The Storm lost Ryan Hoffman and Tim Glasby moving forward but in Vete, they have a ready-made replacement for Glasby, with Joe Stimson stepping up to replace Hoffman.

Vete will likely feature from the bench in round one and will add plenty of games to the 45 he played during his time at the Warriors and his sole Storm appearance last year.

At 25 years of age, Vete looks set to enter his prime. Craig Bellamy has a genuine habit of taking decent first graders and turning them into stars, especially in the forwards.

I expect Vete to follow the same route, especially now that he has a full off-season in the Storm system.

Star Player: Cameron Smith

Cam Smith recently signed a two-year contract extension meaning he will become the first player in the NRL’s history to play 400 games.

Smith is the best player of this generation. I have no doubt of that anymore.

He had a magnificent 2018 season and looked fresh thanks to his decision to step away from the rep arena. I believe that has allowed him to play an extra season.

Smith’s abilities don’t need describing, we all know what he can do. He may be set for a slightly altered role this year having lost Slater but he’s still the main man.

Young Gun/Player To Watch: Jahrome Hughes

Jahrome Hughes looks to be in the box seat to be wearing number one in 2019 following Scott Drinkwater’s injury, with the pair fighting it out for Slater’s vacant jersey.

Hughes has played 15 times already for the Storm to decent success. He was chosen in the end of year squad for the Kiwis. He’s a two-time fullback of the year for the QLD Cup.

Drinkwater was on this list, but the injury has set him back big time.

Recruitment Grade: F

I should know better than to doubt anything that Craig Bellamy does but the Storm hasn’t made any impact at all on the transfer market despite losing the likes of Slater, Glasby and Hoffman.

Vete is a clever pickup and will have a career-best year in 2019, but Eisenhuth and Steve are squad signings. No disrespect to either player but they’re not going to feature often.

As usual, the Storm brass has placed their trust in their development system. It has brought them nothing but success in the past so you can’t blame them, but for the first time in a long time, a Storm squad looks thin.

The Storm would surely have money there somewhere given they’ve lost an Origin forward in Glasby, a quality second rower in Hoffman and the best fullback in the modern day in Slater.

Prediction: 3rd

Despite the loss of Slater this Storm side is still chock full of amazing talent. Hughes and Drinkwater are two exciting players and I’m looking forward to seeing both play at some stage this season.

Smith has sorted his future and has two seasons to deliver another Premiership to the Victorian capital.

Munster is now among the game’s elite players and is a rep regular for state and country. He is next in line to be the main man in purple.

The Storm outside backs are once again frightening. Will Chambers may have lost his mantle as the game’s best centre but I bet he’ll bounce back in 2019 in a big way.

Addo-Carr and Vunivalu would give opposition wingers nightmares with their speed and footwork. Scott is set to rocket into rep contention this year.

Stimson is another player set for a career-best year. It’s amazing how often the Storm loses big name players only to be replaced by equally talented younger players.

For some reason, a lot of people are writing the Storm off. The decline will happen eventually but I don’t see it being in 2019.