After a dominant decade in the NRL, are the Melbourne Storm set to endure at least a minor dip in form in 2019?
With Billy Slater retired, Melbourne have lost two out of the three men that lead the club to multiple premierships. And with Cameron Smith’s retirement on the horizon, Melbourne are left without sufficient leaders to fill the void.
You may believe that Cameron Munster would fill that role after the season he had, but the 24-year old has proven to be ill-disciplined at times. If he is to ever become Melbourne’s captain, he has a lot of maturing to do, especially now that he has signed a big contract.
Putting leaders aside, how does the Storm’s side look as a whole? To be honest still pretty good, however, they are still missing a first grade quality fullback and halfback for 2019.
Although it’s a positive sign that Melbourne are promoting younger players, Brodie Croft did not have the best 2018. Although he is still young and is likely to improve, Melbourne need Croft to mature, and quickly, if they are shooting for premierships. Otherwise they will need a replacement for the 2020 season.
Dally M Halfback of the Year Luke Brooks is an option in 2020 if he continues his form from 2018. If Melbourne are looking for someone who is a known leader in the no. 7, Shaun Johnson is another option if he stays fit and in decent form.
As mentioned before, Melbourne are also lacking an experienced fullback for the 2019 season. Jerome Hughes has re-signed until 2021 and is likely to fill Slater’s recently vacant role. Yes, Hughes has some first grade experience, but so did Croft and he ended up having an average 2018, even being dropped halfway through the season. Hughes could very well quickly fit the mould, but if not, and the 2019 season proves to be a poor one for Melbourne, they could sought out a Valentine Holmes (if he hasn’t signed with the Cowboys) or even Bevan French.
So, with a talented, yet ill-disciplined player, looking to join Cameron Smith as a leader in the Melbourne set-up in 2019 and the other half of their spine being filled with inexperienced youngsters, how will Melbourne fare in 2019?
Personally, I believe they will finish the season around fourth or fifth. Not a major drop, however, a considerable one for a proud club such as the Storm.