When you run out of records to break, you just starting making your own. Saturday’s game saw Cameron Smith become the first player to captain his side in 250 NRL games. The champion hooker also recorded his 181st win as skipper, leaving him with a remarkable 72.4% success rate. Smith is now just three games away from breaking Darren Lockyer’s all-time record of 355 NRL games played.
Cooper Cronk may have been rested but this Storm attack did not miss a single beat. Despite missing their key playmaker, Melbourne put up their highest score of the season. Cronk’s replacement Brodie Croft scored three tries and added another assist as the Knights simply had no answer. The 44 points was also the Club’s highest score ever in Newcastle. Cronk will be a welcome inclusion next week against the Rabbitohs but Storm showed on Saturday that their attack relies on no one man.
This 2017 side has done something no other Storm side has before them. The win over the Knights saw Melbourne record their 11th away win of the year, something this Club has never achieved before. It is a stat this team can certainly be proud of, given they have had to travel to every state in Australia this year with the exception of the Northern Territory. The purple road warriors have dropped just the one away game but have been otherwise flawless away from home.
Three tries that make Storm fans perfectly comfortable with where the future of this Club is heading. With Cooper Cronk rested for Saturday’s game, Brodie Croft was a late inclusion and it proved to be a master-stroke. Not once but twice the 20-year-old showcased some fancy footwork that left the Knights defence in no-mans-land while Croft broke through. The young playmaker then completed his hat-trick in the 65th minute, latching on to a Jesse Bromwich pass. Cronk may be departing the Club at season’s end but this kid looks ready to step in to start filling the master’s shoes.
For the second consecutive year Melbourne will finish the season as minor premiers. On Saturday Storm wrapped up the J.J Giltinan Shield despite having two games still to play in 2017. This side is well aware of the ultimate prize at stake but to end a grueling season as the best side in the competition says a lot about what Storm have accomplished. The purple faithful can once again look forward to accepting some silverware against the Raiders at AAMI Park in Round 26.