The 2015 National Rugby League home-and-away season is already a quarter completed and the Melbourne Storm sit in 2nd place.
A 4-2 record is a fine start, it could however be better given the two losses are by three points combined.
With that in mind, it’s the perfect time to take a look at what has gone so far and where things look like heading in coming weeks.
Best game – the win over the Warriors on Easter Monday was the best win so far. Challenged early by the Warriors and with Billy Slater nursing a hurt shoulder, the Storm held on early defensively and ran away 30-14 winners over a team that has always troubled them at home, with a surprising number of fans, a number of whom were wearing Storm jerseys at the previous home game and will be at the next one.
Best player – I wrote in an earlier piece that Marika Koroibete looked set for a big season after a first pre-season under Craig Bellamy and he hasn’t let me down. His length of the field try against the Cowboys, against the run of play, was close to try of the year in the league, as was his long range effort in the win over the Warriors. He has looked for the most part very assured under the high ball.
Best recruit – Lock Forward Dale Finucane just edges out Five-Eighth Blake Green for mine. Finucane obviously had a touch of class about him, having played in two Grand Finals for the Bulldogs, however Storm fans would be mightily pleased with how he slotted into the line-up. Providing a strong running ability and the occasional off load, Finucane coming into the team has also allowed Ryan Hinchcliffe to shift back to the bench utility role, which he did so well in the 2012 premiership win.
This will also allow Hinchcliffe to take the hooker role, the original position he came to the club as, when Cameron Smith is away with Origin duty.
Most improved – this could go to any number of players. Tim Glasby has been solid off the bench, while Kurt Mann and Tohu Harris have also continued on their upward curve from 2014. For mine though, Jordan McLean has been huge (in more ways than one) and has justified the optimism I had for him this year.
And just to make things balanced,
Worst game – The Melbourne Storm hate Manly. Their 24-22 win at Brookvale over the Storm in Round 2 was their only win of the season to date. In the lead up to half-time the Storm gave up three converted tries in nine minutes. Sure, they outscored the Sea Eagles 16-0 in the second half and a couple of poor no try decisions cost the Storm, but the inability to beat a heated rival when they are down may hurt at the end of the season.
This loss is currently all that stands between the Storm and the top of the ladder.
Players who can lift – Winger Young Tonumaipea had a game to forget against the Cowboys and was dropped for Mahe Fonua for the Warriors game. Tom Learoyd-Lahrs came into the season with an injury and has struggled, only playing one game with minimal impact. Currently behind Dane Weston for the Prop spot on the bench, Learoyd-Lahrs has been going around in the Queensland Cup in recent weeks. The Storm need him at his representative best.
The road ahead
The Storm now head into a tricky part of the fixture, with games against the Roosters (h), Manly (h), Parramatta (a) and Souths (h) in the lead up to the all important Origin period.
A win in three of those four is a must.