Melbourne's march towards yet another top-two finish took a great leap forward on Thursday night when they routed the Sydney Roosters 46-0 on the neutral turf of Newcastle's McDonald Jones Stadium.
Minor premiers in 2016, 2017 and 2019, the Storm have finished in the top two every year since 2016. Barring an unfathomable form slump or an unforeseen injury crisis in the final third of the season, they seem destined to extend that remarkable streak to six straight seasons.
In racking up their 13th straight win since dropping two of their first three games of the season, the reigning premiers moved to 28 points and the outright lead ahead of a bye next weekend.
"I like winning minor premierships – well, we all do I suppose – because I think it's a real reward," Storm coach Craig Bellamy said at the post-match media conference.
"Sometimes you can win a grand final and be the best team for a month but you win a minor premiership, you're the best team for six months.
Bellamy reveals hectic Storm travel schedule leading in Roosters match
"Having said that, before, I think we've probably made some mistakes by going for the minor premiership where it might affect what we do in the finals.
"We certainly don't do that anymore, so we'll keep our eye on where we are and where it's ideal to be and how we can get there, and part of that is resting players if they need resting. I thought we did that really well last year, and have probably been doing that pretty well for a few years…
"We've been through most of those different experiences, and I think we know how to handle most of them now, hopefully."
Match: Roosters v Storm
Round 16 -
Venue: McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle
Despite missing Harry Grant, Ryan Papenhuyzen and Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Melbourne racked up 40 points or more for the eighth time in their past 10 games.
Their preparation included travelling from their Sunshine Coast base to Melbourne earlier in the week then game-day flights from Melbourne to Newcastle and back, but the Storm were never troubled after a Josh Addo-Carr try against the run of play opened their account in the fifth minute.
After scoring two tries for NSW in the Blues' State of Origin series-clinching 26-0 victory over Queensland at Suncorp Stadium four nights earlier, Addo-Carr bagged his third hat-trick of the season to take him past Souths winger Alex Johnston to the top of the NRL tryscorers' list with 19.
"We've got a really resilient team this year, and we're just turning up every week," Addo-Carr told reporters.
"We've travelled the whole of Australia but it just doesn't faze us."
Tedesco offloads and Addo-Carr ends up with a double
Melbourne ran in five first-half tries to lead 30-0 at the break, playing the Roosters out of the game when they feasted on a string of penalties and set restarts to hold possession for nine minutes.
But they started slowly and it took the first of Addo-Carr's three tries, against the run of play from a Cameron Munster kick behind the Roosters' defensive line in the fifth minute, to jolt them into action.
"We weren't overly fussed with our start, to be quite honest. I thought we looked just a little bit flustered to start, and we did a lot of defending down our end," Bellamy said.
Munster and Addo-Carr catch the Roosters out
"I think Josh scored that long-distance try but other than that, we sort of had hardly any ball in their half so it was pretty tough going, but to kick back from that, we started completing our sets and our kick-chase got better.
"We probably scored a couple of, I don't know about lucky tries, but tries that were against the run of play I suppose and that seemed to kick us into gear, then it was a pretty comprehensive performance in the second half.
Hynes carves the Roosters up from a kick
"I was really happy with the way we tackled, I was really happy with the way we attacked, and we knew the Roosters weren't going to give up. They're just not that sort of team, so we knew we were going to have to fight for everything we got in the second half and they did.
"I was really proud of them after what they've been through this week.
"I came here not quite sure… how the week would have affected us. I thought we might have been a little bit tired, a little bit sloppy, so I wasn't quite sure, but I'm so proud of the way they got through that not so good start then went away with the game like they did…
"It's a pretty resilient group, this group, and I think we learnt a few things from last year and it's just carried on again this year. Whatever seems to come their way, they seem to handle it pretty well."
Bellamy said the eight-try shut-out was not as easy as it looked and he rejected the popular observation that the premiership had become a two-horse race between the Storm and Penrith.
"I've been around too long to be saying it's a two-horse race at this time of the year," he said.
"There's a lot of things that are going to happen between now and the end of the year, to finals time. Some things are going to help some teams and some things are going to hinder some teams.
Hughes turns it on to set up Munster
"At the end of the day, what we really look to is to focus on this week, what we need to do each day this week to play good at the weekend, and we'll keep doing that. Hopefully, we might get a chance to rest a few of our guys as we go through, especially the Origin guys.
"But at the moment, the more they play, the better we seem to be getting, but I know there's going to be a couple of hiccups along the way.
"It will be how we handle them, with injuries, suspensions, whatever, but we know they're just not too far down the track, so we're certainly not going to get carried away with that sort of talk, we're just going to concentrate on what we need to do each week and hopefully get it done."
The Storm have a bye next weekend and Bellamy hopes to welcome back Papenhuyzen for their return to AAMI Park against Newcastle on July 17.