Storm recap: Rounds 1-9
Ladder position: 3rd
Storm head into this weekend’s Representative Round with a 7-2 record and sit third on the NRL ladder, separated by only points difference from the competition's top spot.
For the fourth time in five years Melbourne began the season with three straight wins, against the Dragons, Titans and Warriors.
A tough three game stretch followed with defeats to the Sharks and Bulldogs separated by another hard fought win over the Knights.
From there though Melbourne began to find their groove and began a winning run that was kick-started by a golden point win over Wests Tigers.
Big wins over the Warriors and Titans followed to extend the win streak to three games as the Club now heads into this weekend with 12 players currently in representative camps.
Record breakers & Milestone men
This season has seen many milestones reached and records broken. In Round 5, Storm recorded their 300th win in the NRL with an 18-14 victory over Newcastle. Last week’s trip to the Gold Coast also saw several records tumble. Craig Bellamy coached his 350th game and in doing so notched up win No. 232, moving him past Ron Wiley and into outright seventh on the all-time list for most wins as an NRL coach. Cameron Smith also played game 318, moving him into the NRL’s top 10 list for most capped players in rugby league history while Cooper Cronk’s double saw him surpass Greg Inglis to become the third highest try scorer in Storm history. Marika Koroibete,Tim Glasby, Jordan McLean and Kenny Bromwich also all reached 50 NRL games during the opening nine rounds.
There are fewer sights in rugby league that are more satisfying than a donut next to the opposition's score. For the first time in Club history Storm kept their opponents score less in two consecutive games. The 42-0 win over the Warriors and 38-0 victory over the Titans has left Melbourne heading into the middle part of the year full of confidence. Storm’s defence, currently ranked No.1 in the competition, has been a cornerstone of the 7-2 record the Victorian side currently enjoys.
Much has been said of the injury hit Storm has taken to their outside backs early in the season. The side has had eight different outside back combinations in the opening nine rounds with 11 different players used through that area of the field. It is a testament to the playing group's resilience that they have been able to handle the weekly changes and maintain a high level of performance. While injuries are never welcome, it has seen the emergence of boom youngster Suliasi Vunivalu. The Fijian has well and truly grabbed the opportunity with both hands, scoring a double in all three of his NRL games since making his debut in Round 7.
The middle part of the season always presents its challenges for Storm but this will be the time where we will see the side’s increased depth in 2016 come to the forefront. It has already been on show in the earlier rounds with several young players making the most of their first grade call-ups. All that early-season experience will pay dividends during the Origin period. Storm face a tough run before then though, taking on the reigning premiers North Queensland in Round 10 before a trip to Parramatta to face the Eels.