2023 review: Melbourne Storm

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Beth Nicholls casts their eye over the overperforming, yet underacheiving season of the Melbourne Storm in 2023.

Was the 2023 campaign a success or failure for the Melbourne Storm?

Melbourne Storm: the high-achieving club that sees a top four finish the norm, being a highly successful club since their establishment.

It was a rough and rocky year, but despite numerous challenges they slotted into third position come Round 27. After bombing out of the 2022 season during an elimination final loss against the Raiders - the first time since 2014 - making it to the preliminary finals in 2023 was an achievement that certainly made this season a success for the club.

16 wins and eight losses was the final tally from the Storm's regular season campaign, and they survived the Origin period where they were missing several integral players due to representative duties. However, after the first ten rounds, Melbourne was sitting in sixth place with a 5-4 record. While it's something most clubs would be happy with, that isn't how it's done south of the border. 

Come Round 11, it was time for their first clash of the season against the Broncos - which was a controversial one for both sides - however the Storm came out on top winning 24-16, extending a painful losing streak for Brisbane. 

All still wasn't well for this Melbourne outfit, with a brutal 45-10 loss by the Cowboys in Round 15, which was an eye opener for them. You could say the classic post-match Bellamy spray worked though, with the Storm convincingly winning their next game against Cronulla, a walloping 54-10 victory.

Over the next few rounds there was lack of consistency, and Bellamy's men just couldn't seem to find their footing. They would play a good game and secure a win, then following that with a poor performance which was not top eight worthy.

The final month of the home-and-away season however, saw Melbourne win four of the last five games, only succumbing one loss - to the 2022 reigning premiers. 

Here comes the electric Storm, right? No, wrong. 

Melbourne headed up to Suncorp Stadium for a qualifying final against Brisbane, who they had just defeated the previous week, albeit with both sides fielding a mostly second-grade side in that final-round clash. Finals underway, the Broncos put on a masterclass - ending the Storm's 5285 day winning streak over their northern rivals, along with Ryan Papenhuyzen going out with a compound ankle fracture, after just returning to the NRL three weeks prior. 

This qualifying final loss saw the Storm then go head-to-head with the Roosters in a second finals match, which they were destined to lose until a perfect final minute cross field kick from Cameron Munster for Will Warbrick delivered the match winning try. 

Unfortunately, Melbourne's 2023 campaign came to an abrupt end when they played the Panthers in a preliminary final - and nothing was seeming to click, the reigning premiers just too clinical.

Turning point

Round 21 saw the Storm beaten away from home by the Knights, in an embarrassing game that ended 26-18.

On paper, this game should have been an easy win but instead they struggled, especially after playing with only twelve men for ten minutes, conceding three tries. Melbourne needed to make a shift, with only five weeks until finals, if they didn't turn their defence and attack around they didn't deserve to be playing finals footy.

What worked

Like always, Craig Bellamy continued to show why he is one of the greatest coaches in the game. This season marked the Storm's 23rd finals campaign (they have only missed out three times in their history), and eighth time within nine years qualifying for the top four (after minorly missing out last year when they finished in fifth place).

Although there is still slight inconsistencies week to week, this side is a dominant and overall consistent side in the NRL, and it doesn't seem to be stopping anytime soon. 

What failed

The 2023 season saw the loss of Jesse Bromwich, Kenny Bromwich, and Felise Kaufusi, all of which joined the Dolphins for their inaugural season. With this, Melbourne was lacking a dominant and strong forward pack. No matter how good NAS, Josh King and 2023 Storm debutant Eliesa Katoa were, it just wasn't enough fire in the tank, and you could really see at times how much they missed the Bromwich brothers and Kaufusi.

There were also times where although Cameron Munster and Harry Grant were physically on the field, you just didn't sense their presence. Moments of magic weren't as often as you would have liked, and their absence in some games really did cost the side. 

2023 week-by-week

1Mar 2ndThu 7:50pmAParramattaW16-12CommBank17,3016th
2Mar 11thSat 7:35pmHCanterburyL12-26AAMI17,24812th
3Mar 18thSat 2:00pmAGold CoastL34-38Cbus14,48314th
4Mar 24thFri 6:00pmHWests TigersW24-12AAMI11,66910th
5Mar 31stFri 8:00pmASouthsW18-10Accor11,2392nd
6Apr 6thThu 7:50pm
7Apr 14thFri 8:00pmAManlyL8-184 Pines13,5737th
8Apr 25thTue 7:00pmHWarriorsW30-22AAMI23,4693rd
10May 6thSat 7:45pmH*SouthsL12-28Suncorp50,1833rd
11May 11thThu 7:50pm
12May 20thSat 7:35pmADolphinsW24-16Suncorp28,3253rd
14Jun 4thSun 4:05pmANorth QLDL20-45QLD C B18,8675th
15Jun 11thSun 4:05pmHCronullaW54-10AAMI20,2534th
16Jun 17thSat 7:35pmAWests TigersW28-6C'town8,5174th
17Jun 24thSat 7:35pmHManlyW24-6AAMI13,1984th
18Jun 30thFri 8:00pmH*PenrithL16-34Marvel26,8294th
20Jul 15thSat 7:35pmASydneyW30-16SCG12,0213rd
21Jul 22ndSat 5:30pmANewcastleL18-26McD Jones20,3924th
22Jul 28thFri 8:00pmH*ParramattaW46-16Marvel20,4294th
23Aug 4thFri 8:00pmAPenrithL6-26Bluebet19,9534th
24Aug 13thSun 2:00pmHCanberraW48-2AAMI17,3695th
25Aug 19thSat 7:35pmASt Geo IllaW38-28WIN8,3264th
26Aug 26thSat 3:00pmHGold CoastW37-16AAMI18,0723rd
27Aug 31stThu 7:50pm
QFSep 8thFri 7:50pmABrisbaneL0-26Suncorp50,197-
SFSep 15thFri 7:50pmHSydneyW18-13AAMI19,534-
PFSep 22ndFri 7:50pmAPenrithL4-38Accor35,578-

Best player

Nick Meaney was the glue of the Melbourne side and easily one of their best players of the year. Meaney played in the fullback position for the entirety of the year, with Ryan Papenhuzen out due to injury. He also served a goal kicker, something the Storm have very few of, and finished first in the regular season for goals kicked.

A standout for the Storm, he scored ten tries and assisted with eleven, continuing to shine in the fullback position that was previously filled by 'Paps'. It'll be interesting to see in 2024 whether Meaney stays as their regular fullback or is moved to either the wing or centre - pending Papenhuyzen's fitness.


Will Warbrick made his NRL debut during Round 1 against the Parramatta Eels, previously playing rugby union having won a silver medal with the All Black Sevens at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Warbrick is tall, athletic, and speedy, with the 2023 season showing the potential this outside back has, and the asset he is to the Storm. Having played in 25 of 27 Melbourne games, he scored 17 tries across eleven games, including his first double against Brisbane in Round 11, and four tries in one game against the Wests Tigers in Round 16. 

Playing for the Sunshine Coast Falcons in the Qld Cup for majority of the year, Sua Faalogo made his NRL debut against the Broncos in Round 27 and has only played the one NRL match. However, during this debut he scored two tries and made his mark in the first-grade arena. Alongside many other talented backs, he will be fighting for his spots in the starting 17 next year.

2023 player list

ANDERSON, Grant2362--8--
ASOFA-SOLOMONA, Nelson27203--12--
BRADLEY, Kane2321--4--
CHAN, Joe211------
COATES, Xavier222116--64--
EISENHUTH, Tom3118------
FAALOGO, Sualauvi-12--8--
GARLICK, Bronson27221--4--
GRANT, Harry25259--36--
GRANT, Jordan292------
HOWARTH, Jack201------
HUGHES, Jahrome28227--28--
JENNINGS, George302------
KAMIKAMICA, Tui29211--41-
KATOA, Eliesa23216--24--
KING, Josh28263--12--
LEWIS, Chris311------
LOIERO, Trent22262--8--
MacDONALD, Alec2112------
MEANEY, Nick26251091-222--
MOEROA, Tepai276------
MUNSTER, Cameron292281135--
NIKORIMA, Jayden261------
OLAM, Justin29176--241-
PAPENHUYZEN, Ryan25314-12--
PENE, Aaron278----1-
PEZET, Jonah20722-12--
SEVE, Marion28103--12--
SIMS, Tariq33151--41-
SMITH, Reimis26225--201-
TONUMAIPEA, Young3193--121-
WARBRICK, Will252517--68--
WELCH, Christian29252--81-
WISHART, Tyran23142--8--

34 players, average age 26.72yrs

Season snapshot

Coach: Craig Bellamy
Captains: Christian Welch (24), Jahrome Hughes (2), Ryan Papenhuyzen (1)

Biggest home crowd: 23,469 (vs. Warriors in round 8)
Average home crowd: 17,072

Top pointscorer: Nick Meaney (222)
Top tryscorer: Will Warbrick (18)

Club award winners

  • Cameron Smith Player of the Year Award: Xavier Coates
  • RedZed Members' Player of the Year: Nick Meaney
  • Billy Slater Rookie of the Year: Will Warbrick
  • Most Improved Player: Bronson Garlick
  • Best Forward of the Year: Josh King
  • Best Back of the Year: Will Warbrick
  • Try of the Year: Sua Fa'alogo (Round 27)
  • Cooper Cronk Feeder Player of the Year Award: Sua Fa'alogo
  • Greg Brentnall Young Achievers Award: Dickie Terepo
  • Under-21s Darren Bell Medal: Poasi Manu
  • Melbourne Storm Academy Player of the Year Award: Keagan Russell-Smith
  • Michael Moore Award Clubperson of the Year: Katie Holley
  • Chairman's Award: Jonathan Demos

Looking ahead

With Craig Bellamy confirmed to continue as head coach for the 2024 season, the side will be looking to continue to stay dominant and build on their 2023 season, looking for more consistency and form. The squad also has no major changes, with all their key players locked down with a future at the club.

There is however a battle for the fullback position, with Ryan Papenhuyzen set to return from his injury in time for Round 1, and Nick Meaney putting on an exceptional performance during 2023 - plus Sua Faalogo coming through as a developing player. There could be some movement around starting 17 though, with Bellamy likely to tinker with the lineup to find who is best suited where across the park.

An ideal 2024 season sees the Storm have a more consistent year, finish yet again in the top four and hopefully make it one step further and have a Grand Final finish.

Best 17 in 2024

Based on current signings at time of writing

1. Ryan Papenhuyzen
2. Will Warbrick
3. Marion Seve
4. Nick Meaney
5. Xavier Coates
6. Cameron Munster
7. Jahrome Hughes
8. Christian Welch
9. Harry Grant
10. Nelson Asofa-Solomona
11. Trent Loiero
12. Eliesa Katoa
13. Josh King

14. Bronson Garlick
15. Tui Kamikamica
16. Aaron Pene
17. Tyran Wishart