For the first time ever Storm proudly surpassed 20,000 proud and passionate members. It is a remarkable achievement and a testament to the loyalty of the fans who have helped the Club grow over the last 20 seasons. Melbourne now has the fourth highest membership base in the NRL but in true Storm-style, it is time to set our focus on claiming that No.1 spot. If this year is anything to go by, another record looks set to tumble in 2018.
The highest average home attendance in Melbourne Storm history. The purple army came through the turnstiles of AAMI Park in record numbers in 2017. That number ranks as the second highest crowd figure of any Club in the competition. Despite six Origin players missing, more than 17,000 Melburnians came along in Round 15 against the Cowboys to catch a bright glimpse of the future. The biggest crowd of the year was on ANZAC Day against the Warriors (22,153) while 20,508 turned up in Round 26 to farewell Cooper Cronk in his final ever home game at AAMI Park.
Take your pick of which record-breaking number Cameron Smith reached this season. This one likely sits atop of the bunch though as the Storm skipper broke the record for most games played in NRL history when he ran onto AAMI Park for the Qualifying Final against the Eels. Smith surpassed his childhood hero Darren Lockyer in an accomplishment that all but assures his place as a future immortal and arguably the greatest player of all time.
That is where Cooper Cronk’s career will end in the purple jersey. Only Cameron Smith has played more games for this Club. The mercurial halfback moved to Sydney at the end of the season but does so as one of the greatest to have ever played for Melbourne. A two-time Dally M Player of the Year and five-time Dally M Halfback of the Year, he developed from a bench utility into a self-made superstar. Cronk provided Storm fans with a lifetime of memories and will forever hold a special place in purple hearts.
The points differential that proved Craig Bellamy and his side found the perfect mix between attack and defence. Storm ended the 2017 season as the No.1 defence and attack in the competition. They conceded 24 more points than last season but it proved a sacrifice they were willing to make as the attack was 70 points better off. This resulted in complete, consistent performances each week on their way to clinching premiership glory.
The most dynamic wing-pairing in 30 years. Not since 1977 have two wingers from the same team scored so many tries in the one season. Suliasi Vunivalu and Josh Addo-Carr could have hosted their only weekly highlights show, such was their non-stop exploits in 2017. They crossed for 23 tries apiece to occupy the top two spots on the NRL try scorer’s list whilst also ranking in the top 10 for line breaks. Storm fans will have at least another three years of enjoying the dynamic duo side by side with Vunivalu (2020) and Addo-Carr (2021) both signing long-term deals to remain in Melbourne.
That is how many players pulled on the purple jersey in 2018. Melbourne used the third most players of any team in the NRL this year in what may seem like quite a high number considering the side’s success. The Premiers produced five NRL debutants while the other top four sides managed just four between them. That allowed Storm to successfully maintain a high standard of performance whilst also ushering the next generation of talent, something that will only hold the Club in good stead for 2018 and beyond.
Melbourne spent a total of 20 out of 26 rounds on top of the NRL ladder. The entered Round 2 in sixth position, alternated between 1st and 2nd between Rounds 3-8 but from April 25th onwards that top spot belong exclusively to the men in purple. They swept all before them on their way to clinching a second consecutive minor premiership, three wins clear of their closest rival.
You have to go back 45 years for the last time a team won that many games on their way to a premiership. Not since Manly-Warringah in 1972 has a team done what Craig and his side were able to do at the business end of the season. Only five Clubs in the history of the game have managed to win 10 or more games on their way to a title. The men in purple were history makers this season, in every possible way and put up the numbers to prove it.
Storm became the first team to lose four or less games in an NRL season since their own side in 2007. It is just the fourth time this has happened since the NRL competition was formed in 1998 – three of those involving Melbourne Storm teams. Two of the losses this year came as the team missed six of their Origin stars but even in those defeats the glimpse of the future was enough to wash away any taste of defeat. It is easy to take for granted what Craig Bellamy and his men accomplished this season but the fact they were rarely touched all year shows the dominance of this side who’s success will long live in rugby league folklore.