2022 review: Melbourne Storm

COMP NRL
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Stormy seas for Bellamy's men despite heroic season

You might think a first round exit from the finals would mean the 2022 season was an unmitigated disaster for a Craig Bellamy coached side.

But, when you look deeper at all the injury problems that plagued the Storm's chances, it's a minor miracle that they finished as high as they did, mirroring the efforts of the Sydney Roosters from just twelve months prior.

The injury problems began on the opening night of the season, losing George Jennings and Christian Welch with season-ending injuries prior to their round 1 match against the Wests Tigers concluding.

That was the sign that Melbourne's season would be governed by the injury gods.

Despite this, the Storm went on a flawless start to the season, dropping just one of their first nine matches - a golden point loss against the Eels at home.

Turning Point

A 42-6 blowout win over the Dragons on a fine Sunday afternoon in Round 9 saw Melbourne's finals charge implode with a series of injuries. Reimis Smith, Ryan Papenhuyzen and Jahrome Hughes failed to finish and would all miss multiple weeks on the sideline.

In the two weeks Hughes was out, Melbourne would lose to the Cowboys and Panthers by the combined margin of 68-12. This was the sign to many that they were considerably off the pace.

Despite a horror mid-year losing streak, the Storm were able to turn the tide and secure a home final before coming up short against the Raiders at home - who had also managed to down them two months prior at the same venue.

What went right

The emergence of Harry Grant as the best hooker in the game. We knew he was good, but 2022 proved just how good he was.

Also promising was the return of a booze-free Cam Munster, fresh off an off-season he'd rather forget. Munster was the cog that kept the Storm in operation.

What didn't go right

That mid-year losing streak. They were that far below their best it wasn't funny. With the exception of their late rally against Manly, their attack had all the grace of a bowling ball in a pond.

Whilst it wasn't helped with Papenhuyzen's horror knee injury and Brandon Smith's abusive tirade towards a referee, the Storm were considerably under-par against future top eight opponents. Despite this, they managed to stumble into the finals and fell just one win short of a top four berth.

2022 results

RndDateDayOppositionVenueCrowdRank
1Mar 12thSat 7:35pmAWests TigersW26-16CommBank10,0254th
2Mar 17thThu 8:05pmHSouthsW15-14AAMI13,2693rd
3Mar 26thSat 5:30pmHParramattaL24-28AAMI15,6915th
4Apr 3rdSun 4:00pmHCanterburyW44-0AAMI13,4372nd
5Apr 9thSat 3:00pmA NCanberraW30-16Wagga8,1332nd
6Apr 16thSat 7:30pmHCronullaW34-18AAMI16,2862nd
7Apr 25thMon 6:00pmHWarriorsW70-10AAMI22,6962nd
8May 1stSun 2:00pmANewcastleW50-2McD. Jones15,8952nd
9May 8thSun 2:00pmHSt Geo IllaW42-6AAMI11,7231st
10May 14thSat 7:45pmH NPenrithL6-32Suncorp41,5932nd
11May 21stSat 5:30pmANorth QldL6-36QLD C.B.22,7282nd
12May 26thThu 7:50pmHManlyW28-8AAMI10,1682nd
14Jun 11thSat 5:30pmASydneyW26-18SCG12,9252nd
15Jun 17thFri 7:55pmHBrisbaneW32-20AAMI18,5862nd
16Jun 30thThu 7:50pmAManlyL30-364 Pines8,1682nd
17Jul 7thThu 7:50pmACronullaL6-28Pointsbet7,8683rd
18Jul 17thSun 4:05pmHCanberraL16-20AAMI16,1064th
19Jul 23rdSat 7:35pmASouthsL12-24Accor11,2175th
20Jul 29thFri 8:00pmAWarriorsW24-12Mt Smart18,3954th
21Aug 5thFri 6:00pmHGold CoastW32-14AAMI10,8694th
22Aug 11thThu 7:50pmAPenrithW16-0BlueBet15,6124th
23Aug 19thFri 7:55pmABrisbaneW60-12Suncorp42,6124th
24Aug 26thFri 7:55pmHSydneyL14-18AAMI25,3084th
25Sep 1stThu 7:50pmAParramattaL14-22CommBank23,7585th
EFSep 10thSat 5:40pmHCanberraL20-28AAMI20,8385th

Best players

For me, there's three players that made the Storm what they were in 2022. 

The aforementioned Harry Grant is the best hooker in the competition - and if there was any doubt about it, there isn't now. Grant emerged as the best through his creativity in attack and a stout defensive resilience.

Also noted previously, Cameron Munster proved himself following an off-season from hell, scoring 11 tries and setting up a further 16 across the campaign.

Another key name was Jahrome Hughes, his name now being mentioned as one of the elite halves in the competition.

Rookies

2022 saw the Storm blood three new faces.

Alec MacDonald was the pick of the three debutants with the bench forward impressing many within the club with his solid work rate. After joining the club on a train and trial deal, MacDonald played twelve matches and scored his first try against the Sharks in early July.

Grant Anderson also debuted mid-year and crossed for two tries against the Roosters. He would go onto play 6 matches.

Tyran Wishart was the last of the debutants, playing across a variety of positions in his 15 matches in 2022, if he can secure a position in the off-season, then the sky is the limit for Tyran.

2022 player stats

PlayerAgeAppTGFGPtsBinOff
ANDERSON, Grant2262--8--
ASOFA-SOLOMONA, Nelson26234--16--
BROMWICH, Jesse33231--4--
BROMWICH, Kenny30243--12--
COATES, Xavier211716--64--
EISENHUTH, Tom306------
GRANT, Harry24207--28--
GRANT, Jordan283------
HUGHES, Jahrome272112--48--
IEREMIA, Dean21113--12--
JENNINGS, George2911--4--
JOHNS, Cooper234------
KAMIKAMICA, Tui28162--8--
KAUFUSI, Felise30213--12--
KING, Josh27251--4--
LEWIS, Chris30161--4--
LOIERO, Trent21172--8--
MacDONALD, Alec20121--4--
MEANEY, Nick24231348-148--
MOEROA, Tepai2681--41-
MUNSTER, Cameron2722117-58--
NIKORIMA, Jayden251------
NOFOALUMA, David2864--16--
OLAM, Justin282410--401-
PAPENHUYZEN, Ryan241214411139--
SEVE, Marion27153--12--
SMITH, Brandon26213--121-
SMITH, Reimis2591--4--
TONUMAIPEA, Young3022--8--
WELCH, Christian281------
WISHART, Tyran2215------
31 players26.642512196167730

Looking ahead

Everyone will be quick to look at the gains and losses list and write Melbourne off in 2023.

But this is Melbourne - and we've seen this movie way too many times before. Out of the squad are the Bromwich brothers, Felise Kaufusi and Brandon Smith. Coming into the side are Tariq Sims, Eli Katoa, Aaron Pene and Joe Chan. There's going to be questions about the talent lost, but if anyone can turn water into wine in coaching, it's Craig Bellamy.

There will be early stormy seas, but can the talent left behind at AAMI Park fill the void?

2023 Best 17

at time of writing

1.     Ryan Papenhuyzen
2.     Xavier Coates
3.     Reimis Smith
4.     Justin Olam
5.     Nick Meaney
6.     Cam Munster
7.     Jahrome Hughes
8.     Nelson Asofa-Solomona
9.     Harry Grant
10.  Christian Welch
11.  Tariq Sims
12.  Eli Katoa
13.  Josh King

14.  Tyran Wishart
15.  Joe Chan
16.  Aaron Pene
17. Tui Kamikamica


Statistics: Rugby League Project