Pre-Season Prediction: 3rd
Actual Finish: 1st
– Minor Premiers Again: The Storm juggernaut continued on into 2019 and didn’t stop rolling on across the regular season.
Wining their opening five straight games, the Storm lead almost from start to finish in the race to collect the Giltinan Shield.
They would finish the season only losing four games, finishing six competition points clear of their closest rivals the Roosters.
Such was their dominance, their losses came by one point, two points, one point and four points. Absolutely incredible.
20 wins. The best attacking stats across the competition. By far the best defence. An incredible points differential of 331.
They beat literally every team in the competition across 25 regular season rounds.
Complete and utter domination.
– Youngsters Emerge: We all know about the successes of the so-called “big three”. What does go a little under the radar in the Victorian capital is the amount of young players who become stars under Bellamy.
In 2016, when Slater was injured, Cam Munster became a superstar. Kotiobete moved on to be replaced by Vunivalu.
2019 would prove to be no different.
Kenny Bromwich stepped up into the retired Ryan Hoffman’s starting position and was arguably the best second-rower in the competition.
Then there was Ryan Papenhuyzen.
The speedster went from a barely known Queensland Cup player to the name all the kids had across their Storm jerseys in a matter of months. He also looks to have locked up the famous Storm number one for as long as he wants it.
He started the season as a super-sub but finished the season with nine tries, 17 line breaks and five try assists from his 22 appearances. Huge things are to come for the 21-year-old.
– Finals Falter: Melbourne were absent from the decider for the first time since 2015, which is even more surprising given their regular-season dominance.
It’s not often the Storm lose a home game, especially come the business end of the season. Incredibly the Raiders’ 12-10 win at AAMI was their second at the venue in 2020.
Although they would wipe the floor with the travelling Eels, a 14-6 loss in the preliminary final to the Roosters would end their season one week shorter than the majority expected.
Losing to both eventual Grand Finalists is hardly an embarrassment but for a side so dominant across 25 rounds it would have been disappointing.
– An exodus of players: The Storm often lose players due to salary cap restrictions but the turnover from 2019 to 2020 will be something I haven’t seen since the salary cap scandal cost them the likes of Inglis and Hoffman.
Premiership winner and rep mainstay centre Will Chambers left the club, and the code, after 218 games. His centre partner, and fellow Premiership winner, Curtis Scott has also left the club for the capital.
Olam’s emergence will obviously fill one centre position but with two star centres moved on, it’ll be interesting to see where Bellamy goes with the other spot.
Star Player: Cameron Smith
The future immortal had yet another incredible season, finishing second in the Dally M count with 31 points, just three behind the winner James Tedesco.
15 try assists, 14 line break assists, 20 forced line drop outs, and over 1000 tackles made at almost 94% efficiency shows he’s still in the top few in both attack and defence.
The Storm held their collective breath as the greatest number nine toyed with retirement, but will be back for at least one more season in 2020.
Season Grading: A-
Ultimately Craig Bellamy and co would be a little upset that they weren’t able to avenge their load in the 2018 decider but it’s another minor Premiership and another Prelim for the boys in purple.
They captured the Minor Premiership by an incredible three wins plus a big points differential.
Their four regular-season losses were by a combined total of eight points. Their biggest loss of the season, including finals was by eight points.
It feels almost unfair that this seemingly almost unbeatable Storm side didn’t play on the final day of the season, such was their dominance.
Grand Final day would have made for some uncomfortable viewing but it’s worth remembering that this side lost the greatest fullback of the modern era yet was still able to achieve great success.
The Prelim final loss hand delivers any motivation Craig Bellamy may have needed to take his charges one step further next season.