The Melbourne Storm suffered a devastating defeat in the NRL Finals Series after winning the Minor Premiership during the 2019 season. Craig Bellamy’s men were outstanding during the regular season, losing only four of their 24 matches, notching 20 victories to top the table. They finished comfortably ahead of the Sydney Roosters for the Minor Premiership, the fourth time they achieved the feat in the last 10 years.
However, the club were unable to translate their form into the post-season, losing their Qualifying Final at the hands of the Canberra Raiders on home soil. They bounced back with a comfortable victory over the Parramatta Eels in the Semi-Finals. The Roosters lay in wait in the Preliminary Finals. The defending champions held their composure to edge out Melbourne and advance to the Grand Final where they claimed their second crown on the bounce.
The Storm have lost key players in the off-season. Notably, Brodie Croft left for the Brisbane Broncos. Joe Stimson and Curtis Scott also left the club, although the ranks were boosted by the return of Ryley Jacks following a three-season spell with the Eels. Bellamy’s men still make up one of the most talented squads in the league and are considered one of the leading contenders in the NRL odds on bet365 to win the Grand Final – three years removed from their last title win.
Melbourne’s campaign in 2020 does have a feeling of one last hoorah, considering that legendary skipper Cameron Smith has hinted that he will retire in the near future. The 36-year-old has been the integral part of the Storm’s success for the last 18 years, excelling at hooker. No player in the history of the NRL has racked up more appearances than Smith, a milestone he reached last season. He also surpassed Hazem El Masri as the leading points’ scorer in the history of Australian rugby. Smith was named the best hooker, best captain and best player in the NRL in 2019. If he can reproduce that standard of form even in his advancing years, Bellamy’s team should be well in contention once again.
Josh Addo-Carr will be leaving the club at the end of the campaign after the Storm granted terms of his transfer. The 24-year-old has been one of the most prolific players in the NRL since his move to Melbourne, scoring 57 tries in 76 appearances, including 14 in the last campaign. Addo-Carr will be looking to sign off with his second Grand Final victory to put the disappointment of last season to bed before he leaves for pastures new. Suliasi Vunivalu will follow Addo-Carr out of the door in a code switch to Queensland and Rugby Australia. Losing their two wingers will be a massive blow and it could behove the Storm to blood their new talent, including Isaac Lumelume, Justin Olam and Marion Seve, during the campaign to see whether they will be able to fill the void.
Cameron Munster may have to take the reins in the 2020 season to stamp his authority on the team. Jesse Bromwich is the captain in waiting as the duo aim to fill the leadership void. They have to learn all they can throughout the next campaign to ensure that Melbourne can remain at the top of the NRL not just in 2020, but the years beyond. It’s a very important season for the future of the Storm.