2020 NRL Grand Final - Panthers v Storm
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 25: Ryan Papenhuyzen of the Storm celebrates scoring a try during the 2020 NRL Grand Final match between the Penrith Panthers and the Melbourne Storm at ANZ Stadium on October 25, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

For a decade and a half the term ‘big three’ has been synonymous with the Melbourne Storm, after such a long period of dominance from Cameron Smith, Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk. Now, with Cam Smith’s departure from the club all but certain, there’s a new big three at the club set to wreak havoc.

One is the reigning Wally Lewis medallist, another holds the Clive Churchill medal, while the third member recently picked up the Dally M Rookie of the Year award, weeks before his starring Queensland debut.

I’m talking Cameron Munster, Ryan Papenhuyzen and Harry Grant.

GOSFORD, AUSTRALIA – AUGUST 11: Cameron Munster of the Melbourne Storm in action during the round 21 NRL match between the South Sydney Rabbitohs and the Melbourne Storm at Central Coast Stadium on August 11, 2019 in Gosford, Australia. (Photo by Ashley Feder/Getty Images)

Munster is the senior of the three, having debuted in 2014 and now 26-years-old, but the five-eighth has taken giant leaps over the past two years. Since his double sin-binning in the 2018 Grand Final against the Roosters, Munster has asserted himself as one of the NRL’s best ‘big game players’.

He rolled into the Queensland camp days before Game I last year, in fact he even asked Maroon’s coach Wayne Bennett if he could have an extra day to celebrate the Grand Final with his team. Wayne being Wayne, it was a swift no. But that didn’t stop Munster from standing tall and taking control for Game I and III of the series, one of Queensland’s best series victories to date.

And you can’t speak about that series without mentioning Harry Grant. The rake had played two NRL games coming into the 2020 season, a debut in 2018 before waiting 475 days to play his second match.

He’d never started an NRL game until his loan to the Wests Tigers, and now the rest is history. It was his four-pointer that sealed the win for Queensland, and his return to the Storm will be immense. While no one can live up to the legacy Smith created in that purple number nine jersey, Grant is undoubtedly the man to take the club forward.

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA – NOVEMBER 18: Harry Grant of the Maroons celebrates scoring a try during game three of the State of Origin series between the Queensland Maroons and the New South Wales Blues at Suncorp Stadium on November 18, 2020 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

While Wests missed the finals last year, Grant was far and away their best player, a hole they haven’t filled for 2021.

Papenhuyzen, believe it or not, was the last of the trio to debut, kicking off his NRL journey via the bench early 2019. In just 42 first-grade games, Papenhuyzen has scored 20 tries, played for the Kangaroo’s Nines team, won a premiership ring, a Clive Churchill, was in the New South Wales squad and even captained Melbourne.

His style of play is certainly reminiscent of his predecessor in Billy Slater. The speed, the support play, the way he hangs around the ruck.

And he’s just 22, as is Grant.

Every year we read about ‘the Storm’s golden era is over’. And hey, with Craig Bellamy likely to be departing at the end of 2021, it might be. But this trio of stars, a trio likely to be included in Mal Meninga’s 2021 World Cup squad, will be combining and winning games for years after Bellamy departs.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – OCTOBER 01: Cooper Cronk, Cameron Smith and Billy Slater of the Storm pose with the Provan-Summons Trophy after winning 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. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Will they match it with the likes of Billy Slater, Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith? Probably not, they are three of the best to do it, and arguably the best club combination of all time.

But there’s nothing to suggest they won’t go close.

It’s music to the ears of Melbourne fans, a nightmare for the 15 other clubs and their fans, but there’s a new big three in town.