NRL Rd 25 - Sharks v Storm
GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 03: Harry Grant of the Storm celebrates following a try by team mate Ryan Papenhuyzen of the Storm during the round 25 NRL match between the Cronulla Sharks and the Melbourne Storm at Cbus Super Stadium, on September 03, 2021, in Gold Coast, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Every single year, the NRL media cycle at some point spits out the typical 'this is the year the Melbourne dynasty finally ends' articles, and after a handful of poor performances, pundits are finally confident that they're right this time.

They shouldn't be.

The Storm aren't the dominant juggernaut they were in 2021, however with their injury toll, who would be surprised. They lost Christian Welch and George Jennings for the season in the opening round, they've now lost Reims Smith for the year after he re-injured his pec during rehab, even Ryan Papenhuyzen missed an extended stint.

But don't focus on what's happening to Melbourne sans their superstars, focus on what they can do when they have them.

Across the 16 games that Melbourne have played in 2022, they've only been able to carry their full-strength spine of Papenhuyzen, Cameron Munster, Jahrome Hughes and Harry Grant on just seven occasions so far in 2022 - and they've won all seven contests.

It's also a luxury that they haven't been afforded since their 42-6 win over the Dragons in Round 9, the match that saw Papenhuyzen miss the final half hour after suffering a low-grade hamstring tear.

The quartet have all been named to play their first game together in over two months, however Munster will need to prove he is fit to play after missing the Origin decider with COVID, while Harry Grant must come through the gruelling decider unscathed in order to line up against Canberra.

They're simply an ever-rolling juggernaut without brakes built in, they just continue to keep a roll on. Occasionally they will hit their fair share of hurdles, obstacles, but not even they can stop the Melbourne machine, only momentarily slow it.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 16: Cameron Munster of the Storm runs the ball during the round six NRL match between the Melbourne Storm and the Sydney Roosters at AAMI Park on April 16, 2021, in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Part of it comes down to the sheer talent and resilience of the Storm squad, part belongs to the mastermind that is Craig Bellamy. But all of it belongs to the organisation itself, for keeping their wheel's on the track.

Most clubs, after the salary cap scandal, would've taken a decade to rebuild, to pull themselves off the scrap heap. Melbourne advanced to a preliminary final the next year, and won a premiership the year after that.

Since that dark day in April, 2010, Craig Bellamy has led the side to the finals every single year. Across those 11 years, the Storm made the preliminary final in nine of them, they made the Grand Final on five occasions, and won three of them.

They're a club that's forgotten how to lose.

Every now and again, another dominant side comes along to give them a nudge. It was Manly in the late 2000's, then the Chooks at the backend of the 2010's, and now it's Penrith's time to challenge the club. Yet every rival, as strong as they've been, has come and gone, just as Penrith will, yet the juggernaut that is the Melbourne Storm keeps rolling.

It was supposed to be done and dusted when Cooper Cronk left, they made the Grand Final the next year. Billy Slater and Cameron Smith retired in 2018 and 2020 respectively, both finished in a Grand Final, both times the club made the preliminary final the following year.

The 'next man-up' mentality has the club on the front foot at all times, the 'big three' have all faded from superstars to legends of the game, and the likes of their current spine have stepped up in their place.

Don't buy into the losses, don't buy into the hysteria, the Melbourne Storm will remain at this game's peak for a long, long time, regardless of which players are on that team sheet.