Melbourne Storm
Season Preview

2010 Position: 16th (14 wins, 10 losses)

Gains: Adam Woolnough (Out of retirement), Troy Thompson (Canberra Raiders), Elijah Niko (New Zealand Warriors NYC), Jaiman Lowe (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Maurice Blair (Penrith Panthers), Beau Champion (South Sydney Rabbitohs)

Losses: Aiden Tolman (Canterbury Bulldogs), Jeff Lima (Wigan Warriors, ESL), Ryan Hoffman (Wigan Warriors, ESL), Brett Finch (Wigan Warriors, ESL), Brett White (Canberra Raiders), Greg Inglis (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Maipele Morseau (Newcastle Knights), Blake Leary (North Queensland Cowboys)

What a year it was for the 2009 premiers*. 2010 was easily a year to forget and round one 2011 can’t come soon enough. After a good start to their 2010 campaign, things went pear shaped very quickly with the revelation that the Storm had cheated the salary cap over a three year span, and as a result their 2009 and 2007 titles were stripped, as well as their minor premierships and probably worst of all – they weren’t allowed to accumulate any points in the 2010 season. All this before round 7. The Storm have subsequently lost a lot of talent to fit under the cap for 2011, however any team that still boosts the talents of Slater, Smith and Cronk will always be a threat. One thing you can be sure of is that coach Craig Bellamy will have his team fit and ready for the battle ahead in 2011.

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The big question for the Storm in 2011 is if their forwards can cover for those that have left. Tolman, Lima, Hoffman and NSW representative Brett White can not be replaced easily. New recruits Woolnough, Thompson and Lowe have their work cut out for them, but if there’s one thing Craig Bellamy is renowned for, it’s his game plans to play to the Storm’s strengths and therefore bring the best out of the talent available in the team.

What went right in 2010: Being the eternal optimist, even I struggle to find positives for the 2010 season. Perhaps the fact that the Storm will still maintain three of the fab four for 2011 is a positive, and gaining Beau Champion for Greg Inglis is a welcoming exchange. Also young backs Dane Nielsen, Matt Duffie, Justin O’Neill were impressive and can only gain from their experiences in 2010.

What went wrong in 2010: Ian Schubert finding the second set of books. 2010 was a year from hell for the Melbourne Storm, the players putting their bodies on the line for pride alone can only get you so far. The fans, players and staff are glad they can put it all behind them and it’s time to move on and focus on 2011.

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Final say for 2011: So begins the first step to redemption for the once mighty Storm. They have in recent times started the year as one of the premiership favourites (well now we know why), but this year the Storm are an unknown quantity. The backline is still world class, however their forward pack is their weakness. What can we expect from the Melbourne Storm in 2011? Will they play finals footy? These are all questions we’ll find out soon enough. Craig Bellamy has his work cut out for him, but something tells me he’ll be looking forward to the challenge. For what it’s worth – I think the Storm have too much talent not to feature in September.

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