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Melbourne Storm 2020 season preview

We have seen it before. The "experts" provide their predictions and most select the Storm to be the big sliders each year.

Then, 10 rounds into the season they are sitting pretty at the pointy end of the NRL ladder.

While last year's minor premiers may have lost some experience in the outside backs with the off-season departure of Will Chambers (rugby union) and Curtis Scott (Raiders), it's hardly time to panic for Craig Bellamy and his loyal band of assistants.

The Storm have a strong nucleus in their forward pack that includes Jesse Bromwich, Cameron Smith, Dale Finucane and Nelson Asofa-Solomona, while Cameron Munster, Ryan Papenhuyzen and Josh Addo-Carr have enough tricks in their bag to cause opposition defences to panic.

While it remains to be seen whether the Storm have the firepower to go all the way, they certainly won't be too far away come September.

The 2020 outlook

What's new

With the departure of Brodie Croft to the Broncos, a new halves partnership will steer the Storm around the park this year.

Versatile Kiwi Jahrome Hughes is the favourite to partner Munster in the halves, but returning No.7 Ryley Jacks and young gun Cooper Johns could be given the chance to impress throughout the season.

The arrival of Brenko Lee from the Titans also offers the Storm the chance to offset the loss of Chambers and Scott during the off-season.

Five key match-ups of the Storm's 2020 draw

The draw

Storm fans have to wait until the third round of the season to see their charges in action at AAMI Park, with trips to Lottoland and Netstrata Jubilee their most immediate tasks during the opening fortnight of the new season.

A trio of five-day turnarounds follows for the Storm during rounds 3-9, but a bye in the week prior to Origin I is likely to at least provide the Storm some relief when their stars are away on rep duty.

Three home games in the final five rounds of the season should provide the Storm the chance to cement a finals position if they are still chasing post-season action late in the year.

The stat that gives you hope

The Storm are an amazing 54-16 over the first seven rounds of the season during the last 10 years, so you can almost be guaranteed that last year's reigning premiers will make yet another fast start.

Reports are the pre-season that the Storm have just endured has been one of the hardest that Bellamy has ever put his players through, so expect the Storm to come out firing in the early rounds.

What you need to know NRL Fantasy wise

Ryan Papenhuyzen ($600k) exploded onto the scene last year and will be a cut-price Fantasy gun if he can pick up where he left off this season.

There's still no sign of any decline from Fantasy king Cameron Smith ($907k) while Marion Seve ($422k) and Brenko Lee ($375k) are both decent value if they can nab a spot in the centres. 

Bellamy visits NY Fire Department

The coach

Don't expect too much to be different for Craig Bellamy at the Storm in 2020, with the veteran mentor now entering his 18th season in charge in Melbourne.

The top job is his at the Storm for as long he wants it and the master coach has no plans of an early retirement just yet given he is yet to coach a losing season in the NRL.

Expect the same old Bellyache in 2020.

Contract matters

Many of the Storm's stars are locked up long-term with Cameron Munster (2023) and Ryan Papenhuyzen, Brandon Smith and Harry Grant (all 2022) going nowhere any time soon.

Storm winger Josh Addo-Carr.
Storm winger Josh Addo-Carr. ©Mark Dadswell/NRL Photos

The concerns are wingers Josh Addo-Carr (family reasons) and Suliasi Vunivalu (rugby union), with the pair having already expressed the desire to move on at the end of the year. The evergreen Cameron Smith is also likely to retire sometime soon, but on current form he could keep playing for another five seasons.

The burning question

Storm fans demand success and last season's finals disappointment will be at the forefront of their minds heading into the new campaign.

Some will query whether the Storm have done enough to bring in some fresh talent during the off-season to go that one step further this year, but it would be foolish to doubt Bellamy given his impeccable record.

Breakout player to watch

Last season we saw Ryan Papenhuyzen emerge as one of the brightest full-backs in the competition and in 2020 we could see another one of the Storm's young guns come through.

Young halfback Cooper Johns has the right breeding to make it in first grade, with his father (Matthew) and uncle (Andrew) both NRL legends following stellar careers with the Knights.

If Johns gets the chance to partner Cameron Munster in the halves then don't expect him to let it slip. The Storm have big plans for the 20-year-old and they might start coming to fruition as soon as this year.

The quote

"To do what they did during the year was quite exceptional. There's two trophies up for grabs and I know there's one a whole heap bigger than the other one. But we'll console ourselves with the minor one [JJ Giltinan minor premiership shield]." - Storm coach Craig Bellamy