Pool: Rangitoto Pool (Storm, Tigers, Knights, Broncos)
Squad: Kenny Bromwich (c), Young Tonumaipea (c), Josh Addo-Carr, Curtis Scott, Cheyse Blair, Linc Port, Cameron Munster, Brodie Croft, Mark Nicholls, Slade Griffin, Tim Glasby, Joe Stimson, Felise Kaufusi, Scott Drinkwater, Ryley Jacks, Jake Turpin, Dean Britt, Vincent Leuluai, Charlie Galo
vs Brisbane Broncos (12:15pm Feb 4 AEDT)
vs Wests Tigers (4:10pm Feb 4 AEDT)
vs Newcastle Knights (10:40am Feb 5 AEDT)
Despite missing the famous ‘Big Three’ of Melbourne, the Storm have selected a strong, youthful squad for the tournament. Kenny Bromwich and Young Tonumaipea co-captain the team, with both internationals looking to lock down starting roles at the Storm following the departure of stars Kevin Proctor and Marika Koroibete.
Halves Brodie Croft, Ryley Jacks and Scott Drinkwater are all set to gain playing time with fullback-turned-five-eighth Cameron Munster, with the victor set to deputise for Cooper Cronk over the Origin period.
Tonumaipea also has competition on his hands for a backline spot, with recruit Josh Addo-Carr leading the race over Tonumaipea and young gun Curtis Scott for the vacant left wing spot. With Cheyse Blair in the squad, all three have the opportunity to build a left-edge combination ahead of Round 1.
Who To Watch: Josh Addo-Carr. The former Wests Tiger may have only played nine NRL games, but he’s already considered to be one of the fastest men in rugby league. A handy asset in the Nines format, with open spaces a plenty. Scoring three tries in three games at last year’s tournament, all eyes will be on him if the Storm are to be competitive.
Why They Can Win: Low expectations. I know it doesn’t sound like a bonus, but the less pressure the better with these youngsters. The competition for spots means everyone has a reason to excel, and when every member of the squad sets each other as the benchmark, a team can reach another level.
Why They Can’t Win: Inexperience. With a focus on combinations and the upcoming NRL season, inexperience will really hurt the Melbourne side. Not only do they lack a lot of NRL experience, but they lack experience with the players around them. While most teams carry a combination of players who’ve stood alongside each other for several seasons, a lack of knowledge of each other’s game will hurt the Storm when it matters the most.
Prediction: Melbourne have size, and Melbourne have speed. But they don’t have that knock-out blow. No matter how hungry the team is, their lack of cohesion will see them miss the Finals for the tournament, though it will have some good long-term effects on the youngsters ahead of the NRL season.
Finish: Pool Stage