during the 2017 NRL Grand Final match between the Melbourne Storm and the North Queensland Cowboys at ANZ Stadium on October 1, 2017 in Sydney, Australia.

It was all change for the Melbourne Storm at the end of 2017. After winning the regular season crown, most expected the Storm to claim Grand Final glory – and they were spot on. Melbourne was dominant from start to finish against the North Queensland Cowboys, running out 34-6 winners at ANZ Stadium. It was the ideal way for Cooper Cronk to bow out after 13 incredible years with the Storm.

Questions remained over Billy Slater’s future in the game but after arguably a career-best year in 2017, the star fullback signed on. After falling short in the 2016 Grand Final, it was great to see two legends of the game win the Premiership title for the second time. Melbourne fans will recall their triumph over the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs in 2012 but last year’s win trumped that particular success.

Cronk will now ply his trade for the Sydney Roosters, one of the chief contenders for NRL glory this year. It will be hard for Storm fans to see Smith and Slater going up against a fellow Melbourne legend but that is how the sport is. Niceties will be exchanged before the game but, as soon as that whistle goes, Cronk is the enemy. Backing a winner is tough – it could go right down to the wire this year if both teams fulfil their potential.

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The key for Melbourne could be Brodie Croft’s form this year. Widely touted as the Storm’s next number seven, Croft will be expected to step up and prove his worth immediately after a season on the outskirts of the first team. The 20-year-old has shown glimpses of quality in his brief tenure on the big stage but he has so much more to give. Melbourne fans are very excited to see him in action on a regular basis this campaign.

Just look at the 2017 NRL ladder. Melbourne, six points clear of Sydney at the top, were by far and away the strongest team in the competition. The Storm boasted the best offensive record with 633 points scored and the best defensive record with just 336 allowed. On that form, Melbourne deserves to head into the new season as favourites and punters will be taking the 6/1 available in bet365’s Rugby League betting odds.

Craig Bellamy will have every faith in Melbourne’s ability, despite losing Cronk to a rival club. Look at the squad and you see talent in key areas; Josh Addo-Carr and Suliasu Vunivalu finished atop the NRL’s top try scorer standings last year with 23 scores each, whilst Smith finished as the joint-top goal kicker (92) and came second (192) only to Penrith Panthers star Nathan Cleary (228) in terms of total points accumulated.

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At this moment in time, Melbourne and Sydney are once again clear of their NRL rivals and it could be another two-horse race for the title. On paper, it is difficult to split the two clubs but the Smith-Slater combination could give Melbourne the edge, especially if Croft settles quickly at the start of the campaign.

It might just be another BIG year for the Melbourne Storm if everything goes to plan.


      • How so? Lets compare the teams

        Fullback, Slater is a whole class and then some above teddy
        Wingers, Addo-Carr/Vuna vs Tupou and Fergo, thats not even a contest of which pair is better
        Centres, Chambers, Scott vs Latrell, Aubo/Manu. Another non contest, I would take the storm pair any time
        Halves, Munster/Croft v Keary/Cronk, this is pretty even to me, Munster is well above Keary but Cronk is obviously better than Croft
        Front row, Bromwich/Kasiano v Hargreaves/Napa. Again Melbourne have the better pair easily
        Hooker, Smith v Friend, I dont even need to explain whos better
        Backrow, Fusi/Hoffman/Finucane v Cordner/Matterson/Liu. Yeah Melbourne take this one, again

        Bench, Kbrom/Nelson/Glasby/Welch v Tetevano/Taukeiaho/Radley/Aubo. Melbourne comfortably

        • Prisoner of delusion you are entitled to believe in fantasy but lets look at facts. Last season the Roosters beat Melbourne in Adelaide and should of beaten Melbourne in Melbourne with only three Minutes to go but for some dubious refereeing and a droped ball from the Roosters.

          Fullback Teddy any day against old age pensioner Slater
          Wings Tupou, Ferguson both Australian reps, say no more
          Centres Latrell Mitchell a big year this season will see him walk into the Aussie side Manu is a 10 times better prospect than 15 game Scott.
          5/8 Keary and Munster are different types of 5/8 and hard to compare I would say there attributes even each other out. and you have already admitted defeat with your ex hero Cronk.
          Forwards The entire packs on both sides are outstanding I think they even themselves out. However because the Roosters now have Melbourne’s orginiser in Cronk their Forwards will be driven on and pointed in the right direction and wont go missing like they did in some big games with Pearce in control. Melbourne with a rookie half will lack grunt in the Forwards in big games when it counts.

  1. I think the storm will struggle a little but still make the top 4
    Cronk pin point kicking game will be missed
    If slater or smith get injured they may be in a bit of strive
    They do have a very good forward pack
    Still have good depth in there system

    My prediction they will finish 3rd

    1: Cowboys
    2: Roosters
    3: Storm
    4: Sharks
    5: Eels
    6: Brisbane
    7: Bulldogs
    8: Souths

    Penrith and dragons just to miss out

      • That’s what I was thinking…I think souths are in for a not so great season, ive picked them as a bottom 4 finisher. Bulldogs…mmmmmm they might go ok depending on how much they rely on Foran.
        1. Roosters
        2. Cows
        3. Eels
        4. Storm
        5. Sharks
        6. Dragons
        7. Broncos
        8. Raiders (hopefully)….could be the Knights….

        • That’s pretty close to my top 8 but I don’t see the dogs having na good year.

          1. Roosters
          2. Cowboys
          3. Storm
          4. Eels
          5. Panthers
          6. Sharks
          7. Broncos
          8. Dragons

  2. Yes probably the storm will be hard to beat because they’re all on the crack pipe which makes them harder 2 tackle. Maybe the Roosters because they’re a bunch of cheats , they got all players under the sun with no salary cap .
    Be good to see the Titans Newcastle maybe even the Tigers go alot better this year and the cowboys let’s hope JT doesn’t kiss the refs ass all year so they give him the benefits of the doubt all the time hopefully it goes against
    this year.
    Qld still 3-0
    Teams to watch out for Dragons Broncos Parramatta maybe even the doggies and Penrith I’m thinking a few changes in the top 8 this year.

    Hopefully GF 2018
    Broncos v ?

      • Cronks on old legs there mate, He only joined the Roosters for the Mula, set himself up for life after Footy!!

        Like Cooper said if it was to do footy he would have stayed ⛈⛈⛈

    • Well summed up??? How will Melbourne be a force with a nobody halfback.

      Penso you go for South’s don’t you? Remember a few seasons ago before South’s won their maiden Premiership in 2014 after debuting in the 2002 NRL season. They were in front against the Dogs in the preliminary final in 2012 your halfback Reynolds went down injured, South’s lost the lead and the match and missed the grand final all because they had no halfback to guide them around the field. No team is any good if they do not have a skilled halfback.

      Penso, Badly summed up by you congratulating Prisoner of his summing up.🐓

  3. Woodchook, what you said is true about Souths and Reynolds, but how about you go back and look at the players the Storm have lost over the years yet they always compete , whatever they do down there it seems to work, their history suggests that they will be very hard to beat, and Brody Croft could turn out to a great replacement for Cronk, it seems that you never write off the Sorm.

    • Yes Penso they have a great coaching structure at the Storm headquarters and you are 100% correct not to write them off as they have been strong since 1999. However losing a seasoned halfback and replacing him with a rookie is showing that the real super coach Bellamy (not Bennett) has plenty of faith in him. But ALL assumptions by master coaches don’t always work out. If Brody Croft was such a special talent then the Roosters would signed him and not Cronk. But our brilliant talent scout never even mentioned Croft.

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