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Storm announce 20 Year Team

Melbourne Storm have announced their team of the 20 years during a celebratory night at Crown Palladium on Friday.

The 17-man line-up is made up of the greatest players to have pulled on the purple jersey over the last two decades.

A total of five players from Storm’s inaugural 1998 season were selected in the side; Marcus Bai (wing), Glenn Lazarus (prop), while Matt Geyer, Tawera Nikau and Robbie Kearns earned bench positions.

The team also includes six players from the Club’s current 2018 squad. Cameron Smith (hooker) was named captain of the 20-year team that also includes fellow teammates Billy Slater (fullback), William Chambers (centre), Suliasi Vunivalu (wing), Jesse Bromwich (prop) and Ryan Hoffman (second row).

Former captain Stephen Kearney was selected alongside Hoffman in the second row while cult hero Matt King was named in the other centre position.

A superstar halves pairing comprises of multiple Premiership-winning playmakers Greg Inglis and Cooper Cronk.

Tireless Hard man Dallas Johnson claimed the lock position while enforcer Michael Crocker earned the other bench spot.

A six-person selection committee was formed to select the team, comprising of Storm head coach Craig Bellamy, CEO Dave Donaghy, Football Director Frank Ponissi, Club founder and inaugural CEO John Ribot, inaugural assistant coach and later development manager Greg Brentnall as well as legendary coach esteemed Fairfax media collumist Roy Masters.

The committee used four key criteria to select the line-up:

  • On and off field
  • Legacy that was left at the Club
  • Success/Premierships
  • Accomplishments in a Storm jersey

Melbourne Storm 20-year Team:

1.     Billy Slater

  • 299 Storm games (2003-present)
  • 183 tries
  • 2007, 2009, 2012, 2017 Grand Final winner

Slater came to Melbourne as the gangly teenager that grew into arguably the greatest fullback rugby league has ever seen. The boy from Innisfail made his debut on the wing, announcing himself to the NRL world in that game in Round 1, 2003 with a long range try against the Sharks. Slater scored eight tries in his first 10 games playing predominantly at centre. By Round 9 of that year he was given the purple No.1 jersey and has held it ever since. The superstar holds the record for most tries in NRL Finals history and the second most all-time. His decorated career has seen him become a two-time Clive Churchill medallist, three-time Dally M Fullback of the Year as well as a Golden Boot and Dally M Player of the Year winner. The 34-year-old has undergone his fair share of adversity in recent years, with shoulder injuries in 2015 and 2016 leading many to questions whether Slater would ever return back to his best. It is fair to say that he answered that question emphatically when he returned last year to help guide his side to Premiership glory once again.

 2.     Marcus Bai                           

  • 144 Storm games (1998-2003)
  • 70 tries
  • 1999 Grand Final winner

You know you have earned the status of Club legend when they name a stand at Olympic Park after you. The ‘Marcus Bai’ Stand was a tribute to the Club’s original try-scoring machine and fan favourite. The sight of him running down the right touchline of Olympic Park as the purple army rose as one is a memory fond enough to make the hair stand up on the back of the neck of every Storm fan. Bai was an instrumental cult figure who helped put Storm on the map in Melbourne during those formative years – his raw power was simply unstoppable. He left his nine siblings back home in PNG to pursue his dreams of a rugby league career. Based on his six incredible seasons with Storm it is fair to say he accomplished that goal. A player who could single handily lift teammates and fans alike, Bai was a once in a generation winger.

 3.     Will Chambers        

  • 172 Storm games (2007-09, 2012-2017)
  • 72 tries
  • 2009, 2012 and 2017 Grand Final winner

It is hard to remember a Storm side without Will Chambers in it. It feels as though the boy from the Northern Territory has grown up in front of our eyes to now stand as the Australian and Queensland No.3. At the top of his game Chambers can stake a legitimate claim to being the best defensive centre in the NRL. The 29-year-old is a proven big-game player, having been among Storm’s best in the Club’s last two NRL Grand Final appearances. Chambers has also helped Storm to incredible success, being a key part in three Grand Final-winning teams.

4.     Matt King      

  • 91 Storm games (2003-07)
  • 60 tries
  • 2007 Grand Final winner

One of the most beloved characters to have come through this Club, ‘Kingy’ was the ultimate team man. Should an opposing player ever have an issue with a Storm player, King would be the first to step in and back up his teammates. He came to Melbourne in 2003 as a largely unwanted talent from the rest of the NRL world. However Craig Bellamy gave him a first-grade debut that year and the rest is history. King then spent the next five seasons taking Storm into its next era with an appetite for the contest that was unwavering. He was beloved by Storm fans and the feeling was certainly mutual.

 5.     Suliasi Vunivalu      

  • 47 Storm games (2016-present)
  • 46 tries
  • 2017 Grand Final winner

In two NRL seasons Vunivalu has topped the competition’s try-scoring list on both occasions. Vunivalu possess a freakish ability both in the air and on the ground and there are fewer better sights in modern rugby league than seeing the 22-year-old in full flight. His try-scoring record speaks for itself, nearly one per game. Vunivalu sent NRL heads into a spin after his outstanding 2016 debut season that yielded 23 tries. Some wondered whether the second-year blues would creep in but those doubts proved way off the mark with the Fijian Flyer crossing the line another 23 times last season. Re-signed for another three years, there is plenty of scope for Vunivalu to become arguably the greatest finisher this Club has ever seen.

6.     Greg Inglis                                       

  • 117 Storm games (2005-10)
  • 78 tries
  • 2007, 2009 Grand Final winner

A player who could do it all, in just about every position on the field. Inglis began his Storm career at centre initially before making the transition to the No.6 for the 2007 season, helping propel the Club to Premiership glory. G.I spent two seasons alongside Cooper Cronk in the halves before moving back to centre in 2009. As any Storm fan would attest, there were fewer better sights on a weekend than seeing Greg Inglis galloping down the touchline of Olympic Park.

7.     Cooper Cronk

  • 323 Storm games (2004-2017)
  • 92 tries
  • 2007, 2009, 2012, 2017 Grand Final winner

Calm, cool, composed – a natural born match winner. Even the most ardent Storm fan would have lost count of the amount of times the mercurial No.7 stepped up to win the game for Storm off his own boot. In the frantic heat of competition, it would be Cronk who would organise the Storm attack like a maestro conducting his orchestra. A five-time Dally M Halfback of the Year, two-time Dally M Player of the Year as well as a golden boot winner, his greatness as an individual player was unforgettable and that is before you even consider the freakish telepathy he shared with Cameron Smith and Billy Slater for over a decade.

 8.     Jesse Bromwich

  • 182 Storm games (2010-present)
  • 23 tries
  • 2012, 2017 Grand Final winner

You know you are a special footballer when you win three consecutive Storm Player of the Year awards whilst playing alongside some of the best players to ever play the game. A two-time Premiership player, Bromwich was also named the 2016 Dally M Prop of the Year. The Kiwi representative has taken the mantle as leader of the Storm pack and run with it, proudly carrying on the No.8 legacy left by those before him. The next generation at Melbourne Storm will always be bright with Bromwich there to lead the way.

 9.     Cameron Smith

  • 358 Storm games (2002-present)
  • 42 tries
  • 2007, 2009, 2012, 2017 Grand Final winner

Where do you even begin to describe the career of the greatest rugby league player to ever lace up a pair of boots. Four Premierships is impressive enough, then you add the record he holds for most games played in NRL history (358), most wins (254), most games as captain (255), most points by a forward (2,185) and most State of Origin appearances (42). Smith also has a trophy cabinet that should have a house of its own. Over 16 incredible seasons he has been a seven-time Dally M Hooker of the Year, two-time Dally M Player of the Year, seven-time Storm Player of the Year, four-time Wally Lewis Medallist and two-time Golden Boot winner. Smith has led Melbourne Storm as captain since 2008, representing the Club with a level of class and distinction that sees him now stand as a renowned and respected figure for not only the game of rugby league but Australian sport.

10.  Glenn Lazarus

  • 44 Storm games (1998-99)
  • 2 tries
  • 1999 Premiership player

When you are building a Club it is hard to think of a better character to centre it around. ‘Lazzo’ spent two wonderful years helping to establish Melbourne Storm into the proud and successful Club you see today. That image of Lazarus doing a cartwheel in celebration after winning the 1999 Grand Final remains one of the most iconic shots in Storm history. What a way it was to sign off on one of the greatest careers of the 90s era. Lazarus may have come to Melbourne in the twilight of his career but his commitment to ensuring something special was created in Victoria is a testament to just how much he will always mean to this Club.

11.  Stephen Kearney

  • 139 Storm games (1999-2004)          
  • 20 tries
  • 1999 Grand Final winner

After Melbourne Storm finished in third place in 1998, it was the addition of Kearney that would play a vital hand in propelling the Club to Premiership glory the following year. Simply fearless, the side always had belief in getting the job done whenever he was in the team. Kearney was also one of Storm’s greatest leaders, having captained the Club from 2003-04.

12.  Ryan Hoffman                      

  • 245 Storm games (2003-2011, 2012-2014, 2018)
  • 59 tries
  • 2007, 2009, 2012 Grand Final winner

A player who embodies everything Melbourne Storm is about. ‘Hoffy’ has a team first mentality and fiercely competitive drive, blended with a humble nature that has endeared him to the purple army since making his debut in 2003. Having now returned to Melbourne for his third stint at the Club, it is only fitting Hoffman’s journey will end at the very place he has given his heart and soul.

13. Dallas Johnson

  • 157 Storm games (2003-09)
  • 12 tries
  • 2007, 2009 Grand Final winner

A player who was living proof that the toughest blokes do not have to be the biggest. Standing at a modest 183cm, Johnson made every bit of his frame count. He was a fearless leader of the Storm pack during the first half of the Craig Bellamy era. If the team needed a job done, Dallas Johnson would be your man to do it. He was one of the best tacklers you will ever see – opposing players would have been forgiven for altering their run to avoid the Storm hard man.

14.  Matt Geyer

  • 262 Storm games (1998-2008)
  • 113 tries
  • 1999, 2007 Grand Final winner

Originally from Penrith, Geyer actually began his career in Perth with the Western Reds before joining Melbourne for its inaugural season in 1998. He actually shifted to five-eighth for the 1999 finals series and his conversion in the Grand Final sealed the Club its maiden Premiership. A terrific leader, Geyer was instrumental in ushering Melbourne Storm into its next era under Craig Bellamy and building the foundation for success that the Club continues to enjoy. A man who lives and breathes the Storm values, even to this very day.

15.  Tawera Nikau          

  • 53 Storm games (1998-99)
  • 8 tries
  • 1999 Grand Final winner

The original Storm enforcer. His performance in second half in the 1999 NRL Grand Final to swing the game Melbourne’s way now holds a special place in Storm folklore. An imposing on-field figure with a demeanour to intimidate the best of them, Nikau was a man who was simply impossible to stop when in full flight. The powerful Kiwi spent just the two seasons in Melbourne but played a crucial hand in establishing the Club’s famous culture that is still thriving today.

16.  Robbie Kearns

  • 169 Storm games (1998-2005)
  • 18 tries

Kearns was one of Storm’s marquee men during those formative years. He took a risk to move to Melbourne as he approached the peak of his career but the gamble well and truly paid off. He earned Origin and Australian honours off the back of his performances in the purple jersey and was a driving force behind the early success the Club enjoyed. Kearns captained the Club in 2000-01 and again in his final season in 2005. He remains a beloved character at the Club, working as part of the administrative team and is a true ‘heart and soul’ figure within the walls of AAMI Park.

17.  Michael Crocker     

  • 44 Storm games (2006-2008)
  • 7 tries
  • 2007 Grand Final winner

The definition of the term ‘hard as nails’. Fewer players had more of an impact when it came to on-field success than Crocker. The one stat that proves that fact is that of his 44 games in the purple jersey, Storm won 40 of them. After missing most of the 2007 season, Crocker returned to the side in time for the finals and was a driving force in seeing the side march through that year’s finals series seemingly untouchable.

Acknowledgement of Country

Melbourne Storm respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.