The Melbourne Storm will tonight host rivals the Cronulla Sharks for a chance to contest a third straight Grand Final.
The purple haze will start the game at extremely short priced favourites. Will Chambers is back, Cam Smith has sorted out his future and the Storm have had a week to rest up.
Craig Bellamy’s men have a genuine shot at history here with only the Sharks between them and a shot at defending their title.
Here are the reasons why the Storm can and cannot win the title.
Why the Storm can win the title
– They’ve done it before: Simply put the Storm know how to win the big games. They’re the reigning NRL Premiers and have titles in 2012 and 1999. Of course they’ve won further Grand Finals.
This Storm side is the most successful side of the modern era. With Cam Smith, Billy Slater and Craig Bellamy on board, they’re always going to be tough to beat, especially at this time of the season.
Experience cannot be taught. Smith is the most experienced player in the game. The first Grand Final is always the hardest to win, just ask their opponents tonight the Sharks.
– Best coach in the business: Some will argue that Wayne Bennett is the best coach of the modern era but for mine it is without a doubt the Storm mentor.
No coach has been able to replace talent with the ability of Bellamy. I challenge any other premiership side to lose a player with the talent of Cooper Cronk and make a prelim final 12 months later.
He has turned Josh Addo Carr from a fringe reserve grader to arguably the best winger in the game. He is the king of recruitment and the most astute thinker when it comes to game plans.
He will have the Sharks and the Roosters/Bunnies winner scouted to perfection and will have his players motivated and ready.
– All the talent in the world: Smith is still the best player in the game right now. Billy Slater may be about to retire but he’s still the number one fullback in the game.
Chambers and Curtis Scott are absolute weapons out wide while in Addo Carr and Suliasi Vunivalu the Storm have the most electric wing combination in recent memory.
The Storm have a monster forward pack, the next Kangaroos number six in Cameron Munster and plenty of talent coming off the bench.
There are no weaknesses in this side. The Sharks and Roosters/Bunnies have their work cut out for them to say the very least.
Why the Storm can’t win the title
– History says they can’t: It’s near impossible to win the title back to back. History proves that. Sure this Storm is talented and is lead by the man himself in Bellamy, but there are three incredible sides in their way.
Yes they’ll enter favourites but they have a monster crowd expecting them to wipe the injured Sharks off the park. Yes they’re at full strength but the NRL community are expecting them to feature, for the third time in a row, next Sunday evening.
The pressure is on and history is against them. I’m not a huge believer in records and history but pressure and expectation are a funny thing.
– A step too far: The three remaining sides all have game styles that can upset the 2018 Melbourne Storm. The Bunnies beat them recently, the Roosters are in red hot form and the Sharks have beaten them twice this season.
All three sides have forward packs that can match the big men in purple. They all have wingers who can trouble the Storm and all have halves that have proven success against the Storm recently.
If there was one side the Storm did not want to run into it’s the Sharks. The black, white and blue can play some horrid football but they’re able to drag a side, even as good as the Storm, down to their level and beat. The Roosters are much the same.
– Cooper Cronk: The man who drove the title charge last season for the Storm stands tall as the biggest threat to their going back-to-back in 2018.
No player in the game knows the Storm set up as well as their former number seven in Cronk.
He’s the best half in the game now that Jonathan Thurston has moved on, and has been signed, to a huge contract, to lead the Roosters to the promised land.
The Storm have everything they need to lift the trophy next Sunday night. That said, they have a long way to go and three weapon sides to combat. They are favourites to get it done but my word it will be no walk in the park.