For supporters of the Melbourne Storm 2015 has been a difficult year.
One week they are up, the next week they are down, its almost impossible to predict which team will turn up from week to week.
Injury and the State of Origin have hit the club hard since the half way point of the season.
Since the half way point, the Storm have won just two of seven games to sit precariously in the sixth place on the ladder going into the last five games, only a game and points difference ahead of ninth.
The loss of champion full back Billy Slater to a season ending shoulder injury, which quite frankly should have been operated on earlier than it was (Slater held on to play Origin 2 and was a shadow of himself), has hit hard. The positive out of this is the accelerated development of Cameron Munster in the full back role.
Likewise was the continued impact of Blake Green following the knee injury to halfback Cooper Cronk between Origin 1 and 2.
When those wins came back-to-back immediately following the Origin period, it was assumed that the men in purple were back and rolling towards the finals. A 34-16 loss (after leading 10-0) to the bottom side Wests Tigers last Friday followed.
It was the third time this season the Storm had lost to the bottom side. Perhaps they were tired after two trips to New Zealand in three weeks, an unintended “benefit” of selling a home game.
The biggest cause for alarm is the defence, particularly out wide. If teams want to score on the Storm its as simple as taking the ball out wide either by hand or foot. It’s money for jam, an open door.
For all their attacking prowess, Mahe Fonua, Will Chambers and Marika Korobeite all need to improve their defending and that needs to start now or the season will slip away quickly.
A number of the forwards’ play has dropped off. Kevin Proctor has barely had an impact this year, while Tohu Harris is splitting time between the centres and back row. Nelson Asofa-Solomona is a potential star but for some inexplicable reason was dropped last week after scoring his first career try against the Dragons in NZ.
So which way will the run home to the finals go? It’s anyone’s guess.
It all starts this Sunday when the Storm host the 14th placed Gold Coast Titans. This is a game they simply have to win and win well. Perhaps more importantly they need to show a renewed attitude to defence, the sort that saw them be a power of the game for the last decade.
Following that they play Cronulla and Newcastle before finishing the season against the top two teams, Brisbane and North Queensland.
It’s quite conceivable that the Storm will not make the finals.