In the history of rugby league in Australia, there have been a few key teams dominating different eras. Yet amongst the current competition with more money, commercial interest and locations of teams, the Melbourne Storm under Craig Bellamy are the most dominant team in 50 years.
Post the St George reign between 1956-1966 of pure and utter dominance, Bellamy has ruled the NRL since he took over in 2003. The statistics are simply remarkable considering the NRL is now a national game with measures in place attempting to even the playing field… and the best team is from Victoria.
Before the salary cap began being stretched in 2006, the Storm had made the finals all three years under Bellamy and won a game on the road in each of those series. It is hard to consider their period between ’06-’09 due to the systematic cheating where they won two premierships, three minor premierships and lost two Grand Finals as well.
Even in the year they finished ‘last’ due to the punishment by the NRL they still managed to win 14 games despite having nothing to play for. So how, after having financial difficulties, cutting wages and letting key players go, are the Storm still dominating the NRL?
Consistency in a success model is the answer.
Since 2011 when they re-joined the NRL for premiership points, the Storm has won 72% of regular-season games, finished outside the top four only once and played in four Grand Finals. The 2010’s Melbourne Storm has been more dominant statistically than any other team since that very Dragons team of the ’60s.
Many of you would argue the Roosters and maybe even the Broncos have been equally as successful without the cheating fiasco, but you would be mistaken.
The Roosters despite having played in five of the past six preliminary finals have been plagued with poor turn-around seasons this century. They find ways to attract the top players being in the heart of the league hub of the world and are one of the richest clubs in the NRL, yet have missed the finals seven times since 2005.
Their winning ratio of 56% since 2011 hardly rivals the Storm who consistently find themselves at the top of the tree year in, year out.
Brisbane is similar yet so very different. Having only missed the finals three times in NRL history they have struggled in the big games and have not won a premiership since 2006.
With a 54%-win ratio since 2011 they, like the Storm constantly make their way into the finals… but cannot step up every year whilst there. Arguably the biggest club in the NRL, they have not tasted glory in a long stretch of time which has been a disappointment for fans.
Meaning the product of the Roosters and Broncos is the Storm. A consistency in performances whilst always being there at the end.
The NRL is trying to even the playing field giving the top sides double-up games against the previous top sides, and considering the Storm are the only Victorian team, they play 12 road games outside of Victoria every year. The Sydney clubs certainly have it easier with the draw, Brisbane is a more popular option to play in considering the origin of current players yet it is the Melbourne Storm who continue to emerge on the top.
The dominance of the past nine seasons by the Storm is unlikely to continue as the league attempts to have more continuous turnover at the top, ensuring peak fan enjoyment with the best players continually moving clubs.
In 2019, with more money than ever before, in a multi-state competition and with a New Zealand team, the same formula for success remains present, with a measure of consistency unlikely to be seen again.
It is time to put the unpopular opinions aside and recognise the greatest team of the modern era who through adversity, change and a turnover of great players are still at the top in 2019.
Whether they win the 2019 Grand Final remains to be seen, but in what has to be recognised as the hardest generation to win in, the Storm continues to do so.