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Andy Bichel, replete with carpentry qualifications earned before he was regarded as Australia's unluckiest cricketer, would joke of crafting his own drinks cabinet as he was so familiar with being 12th man.

The affable paceman's hard luck, performing drinks duties 19 times for Steve Waugh's all-conquering Test attack, was seen as a true measure of Australia's dominance at the time.

A team as good as Waugh's could afford to keep Bichel mixing the Gatorade.

The most remarkable facet of the Melbourne Storm's bid for a record 20 straight wins this year is Craig Bellamy doesn't know who his Andy Bichel is after winning for the past five months.

Or even exactly what his best 17 looks like.

So much so that Andrew Johns raised the possibility of Nicho Hynes, not just one of 2021's best performers, but also one of the year's genuine feelgood stories, finding himself in the same unenviable boots as Bichel.

"Nicho Hynes, I can't see him being in the 17 when everyone's back," Johns said on SEN radio last Friday after Melbourne's slightly nervy disposal of the Gold Coast – the 19th scalp in their streak.

"[Ryan] Papenhuyzen will be fullback. Brandon Smith will go to hooker. [Tui] Kamikamica will be on the bench and Harry Grant will go back to the bench.

"They'll start with Brandon Smith so there's no room for Nicho Hynes, Jahrome Hughes comes back at halfback."

Johns is most likely half right. Rare areas for the Eighth Immortal.

How Bellamy uses Hynes remains a curly question as Papenhuyzen continues his gradual build in game time after his concussion lay-off.

Hynes shifted from fullback to the halves when Jahrome Hughes was out last weekend.

But the likes of Nelson Asofa-Solomona (hamstring), Kamikamica (calf), Dale Finucane and Hughes (both concussion) are all on the mend and set to offer the Storm luxuries they've rarely entertained throughout their history-making run - a near-fully fit squad to whittle down to 17.

Whereas consistent team selections have long been the hallmark of any great side, Melbourne have used 29 players across their 19 victories - only the 1975 Roosters have used more among the premiership's most successful sides.

Not until after round 19's hard-fought win over North Queensland did the weekly injury check-in with Storm officials get a response of "nothing to report for once".

Even still, Bellamy was able to rest Smith and Justin Olam last week and will do so again with key figures leading into the finals.

Smith's rare versatility as a destructive middle forward, or equally destructive hooker – he just passes more often, offers the likeliest answer to Johns's theory.

With two positions covered by one remarkable player, Melbourne have the potential luxury of carrying two small, creative bodies on their bench in Grant and Hynes, without being left short for forwards.

On paper it appears as a bench imbalance. On the paddock it has looked clunky at times as Hynes tries to take on a roving role when Papenhuyzen plays fullback.

But such has been the Storm's dominance, Bellamy has had time to work it out.

Match Highlights: Titans v Storm

And in Smith, a situation not entirely dissimilar to that of Australia's use of Adam Gilchrist – whose work with the willow matched that of a top-six batter and allowed for five bowlers to be played when it suited, Bichel among them for once.

Hynes, who was one of the four interchange players but not used on grand final night last year, will be hoping so at least.

A fan on Twitter pointed out after his 18th man call-up for the Blues that he has now lifted both the premiership trophy and Origin shield without seeing a minute of playing action.

At least Hynes had a sense of humour about it when it came to his attention.

Hynes became the first player in 26 years to remain benched for the entire game when he didn't play in the grand final and Bellamy has spoken often of that unenviable scenario and how well the player handled it.

The 61-year-old has rarely been one for selection sentimentality.

When Ryan Hoffman announced his 2018 Storm swansong would be his last, Bellamy described him as "probably the best club man I've ever coached."

In turn, it made the coach's call to leave Hoffman out of the Storm's grand final side "the toughest [decision] I have ever had where it involves picking a bloke in a team," according to Bellamy at the time.

Across 19 years at the Storm, and with more to come after last month's extension, Bellamy has coached some of the greatest the game has seen.

Cameron Smith's eventual retirement was the basis for more than a few theories that 2021 would be the year the Storm finally slipped, even just a smidge.

Instead, Melbourne sit on the precipice of history. All while Bellamy still tinkers with his team.

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.