Almanac Rugby League -NRL Round 1: Storm vs Dragons – Business as Usual

The foundation of the Melbourne Storm dynasty is built upon the understanding that if every player does his job to the best of his ability, then success is almost assured. The Big Three may get the plaudits and accolades, but they can’t do what they do if the forwards don’t set a platform, or if the backs don’t run the right lines. Every player embraces his role, everyone buys into the system.

The result is a rugby league machine, the best club combination of the decade. No matter the opposition, no matter the occasion, the Storm always do what needs to be done. This game against St George was no different. From the opening whistle they begin their work, the power running of Jesse Bromwich and Siosaia Vave up the middle and the smart lines of Tohu Harris and Ryan Hoffman get them in position. Cooper Cronk kicks smartly, Billy Slater and Cameron Smith cunningly snipe around the ruck. The Dragons might get a chance here and there, but are never looking likely to break the line of the purple people eaters. Yes, there is a mistake here and there, a little but of rust after a tortuous pre-season, but the longer the game goes the more fluent the attack, the more rhythmic the play.

The Storm are attacking the Dragons left with ruthless precision. Slater spins out of a couple of tackles and scores, making a difficult play look effortless. The Dragons have some field position, but Gareth Widdop picks up a rebounded kick and runs 80 meters to score. Soon afterwards Cronk hits Hoffman with a glorious short ball, and the canny back rower positions Justin O’Neill. 18-0. You can’t call it easy, because the Dragons aren’t playing bad. But they can’t get near the Storm

Or can they? Jamie Soward latches onto a loose pass, and goes the distance to score. For a moment there is hope. But Melbourne never panic, never rush. For a while the Dragons repel them, but the Storm keep coming, keep grinding away. The back breaker comes when the Dragons push a pass and O’Neill pounces. The big Vanuatuan streaks away to score under the sticks.

They could call this game right now, because Melbourne don’t give up 18 point leads. Cronk is robotic with his consistency, killing the Dragons with his masterful boot. He is the most easily overlooked of the Big Three, but he is the conduit between Slater and Smith, an essential cog to the machine. Once he has you down, he’ll never let you up. The Dragons are making plays that most of the time results in tries, but not today.

Young tyro Jesse Bromwich is strong, offering a potent mix of size and footwork and consistently bending the defensive line. To their credit Saints never give in, but lack the class to push the Storm. They snag a try through Jason Nightingale, but you can put down the glasses. The Storm have been impressive without being stretched.

There is wonderful interchange of passing between Slater and Hoffman, and Mahe Fonua, the first true Victorian to pull on the purple jersey, scores with less than 10 to go, and it’s business as usual for the Storm.  Every man did his job, every man did it well.

Nathan Hindmarsh Medal

3- Cooper Cronk

2- Jesse Bromwich

1-Ryan Hoffman

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