Melbourne have lost a long list of experienced premiership winners during the off-season, but don’t expect them to slow down any time soon.
After falling out of the finals in a shock loss to the Raiders last year, the likes of Brandon Smith, Felise Kaufusi and the Bromwich brothers all departed the Storm after successful tenures.
Tariq Sims and Eliesa Katoa headline a rather underwhelming list of recruits for the new campaign, with both players struggling for form at their previous clubs and looking for a fresh start.
The roster changes have left a gaping hole in the club’s forward pack heading into 2023, but it might not be all doom and gloom down in Victoria.
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Speaking to The Sporting News at this week’s Fox League season launch, club legend Cooper Cronk delivered a stern warning to the competition regarding the Storm’s fortunes.
“They’ve obviously lost a lot of experience in that forward pack, but just remember that the Bromwich boys and Kaufusi and Brandon Smith weren’t household names when they arrived at Melbourne Storm,” he said.
“Tariq Sims, Eli Katoa, Trent Loiero, Josh King and those guys will have the Craig Bellamy magic dust sprinkled over them during the summer.
“They will provide a great platform for arguably one of the best spines in the competition to do their thing.
“Melbourne Storm fans, don’t worry.”
The aforementioned Sims brings a wealth of experience, having played 221 first grade games to date and making six appearances for NSW, but has been down on form at club level for the Dragons in recent years.
Other players such as Katoa and Loiero will be in the mix for spots in the starting pack, despite having limited experience and still in the early stages of their NRL careers.
The side are still lucky enough to have a star-studded spine that includes State of Origins standouts Cameron Munster and Harry Grant, as well as Kiwis playmaker Jahrome Hughes, which should still be able to create plenty of points on a weekly basis.
Asked what makes Storm coach Craig Bellamy so successful at getting the best out of underperforming or unheralded players, Cronk said there there’s no big secret and it’s all about the work ethic he instils in his roster.
“It’s not a magic potion – it’s just making them train harder than they have ever trained before,” he said.
“If he can have the majority of his players doing high-percentage plays and playing their role for the team, and you give enough platform and ball to the likes of Grant, Munster and Hughes, then the points are going to come.”
Melbourne will kick off their season against the Parramatta Eels on Thursday, March 2nd.
Fox League is available to watch on Foxtel and Kayo Sports.