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Melbourne Storm: All-Time Greatest XIII

The Melbourne Storm are currently in their 20th season in the ARL/NRL after entering the competition in 1998. They had almost immediate success, winning their first premiership in just their second season in 1999.

The Storm have since had three more grand final wins (in 2007, 2009 and 2012), but they were later stripped of their 2007 and 2009 titles due to salary cap breaches.

Under long-time coach Craig Bellamy and with ‘the big three’ of Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater leading the way, Melbourne have become a model of consistency over the past decade.

Although they have largely built their reputation on having role players to support their chief playmakers, plenty of great footballers have donned the Storm jersey over the years. Coming up with their all-time greatest XIII is a tough task; some difficult decisions need to be made in several positions.

I haven’t been able to find a place in my team for players like Brett Kimmorley (the 1999 Clive Churchill Medallist in the Storm’s grand final win over St George), Glenn Lazarus (the Storm’s inaugural captain), Matt Orford, Israel Folau, Robbie Ross, Will Chambers, Dallas Johnson or Tawera Nikau. Lazarus, though, was selected in our greatest Canberra Raiders XIII.

The stats I’ve listed below for each player only reflect their matches for the Melbourne Storm, not for any other club or representative team.

Fullback: Billy Slater

286 matches (2003-17), 175 tries

Billy Slater has redefined fullback play since he burst onto the scene as a nineteen-year-old in his debut season for the Storm in 2003. His speed and positional play make him an attacking threat anywhere on the field. Slater is the Storm’s leading all-time try scorer, and currently third on the NRL’s all-time try-scoring list. His talk in organising his team’s defensive structure is also highly valued by his teammates, as is his own try-saving ability in defence.

In addition to his stellar representative career for Queensland and Australia, Slater’s highlights include winning the 2008 Golden Boot award for the best player in the world, the Clive Churchill Medal in the 2009 grand final against Manly, and the 2011 Dally M Medal for the NRL Player of the Year.

Winger: Marcus Bai

144 matches (1998-2003), 70 tries

Marcus Bai was a popular Papua New Guinean flyer who was one of the Storm’s foundation players in 1998. In that first season, he was voted the Dally M Winger of the Year, scoring 14 tries and establishing a cult following. A year later, Bai was an important part of the Storm’s first ever premiership team. His pace, strength and finishing ability were his trademarks.

Centre: Greg Inglis

117 matches (2005-10), 78 tries

Greg Inglis made his debut for the Storm as an 18-year-old and had an immediate impact. Within a year, he was playing for both Queensland and Australia. The Storm took advantage of his versatility by playing him at centre, five-eighth, wing and fullback during his time at the club, but his running game has always been his major strength. He won the Clive Churchill Medal in the Storm’s 2007 grand final against Manly and the Golden Boot award in 2009.

The Storm’s salary cap dramas eventually saw Inglis squeezed out of the club at the end of the 2010 season to join the Rabbitohs. He was also named in our greatest South Sydney XIII.

Centre: Matt King

91 matches (2003-07), 60 tries

Matt King made his NRL debut at the relatively late age of 23, but established himself as a major attacking weapon when he finally got his chance. He used his size and agility to consistently find the try line during his five seasons with the Storm. A popular player with his ‘Sideshow Bob’ hairstyle, King was a big match performer, scoring tries in both the 2006 and 2007 grand finals. His consistency was rewarded with 9 State of Origin appearances for the Blues and 10 Tests for Australia during his time at Melbourne.

Winger: Matt Geyer

262 matches (1998-2008), 113 tries

Matt Geyer was a great team player, with his versatility enabling him to play in a number of positions in addition to his preferred wing spot. In the Storm’s 1999 grand final win, Geyer filled in at five-eighth when Scott Hill suffered a major knee injury. He starred for Melbourne that season, scoring 20 tries, and also represented the Blues on the wing in all three Origin matches. The younger brother of Mark Geyer (a member of our greatest Penrith Panthers line-up), Matt was the Storm’s most capped player and leading all-time try-scorer at the time of his retirement.

Five-Eighth: Scott Hill

177 matches (1998-2006), 46 tries

Scott Hill was a clever and skilful five-eighth who formed great halves combinations firstly with Brett Kimmorley and later with Matt Orford during his time with the Storm. A foundation player with the club, injury unfortunately saw him miss Melbourne’s victory over St George in the 1999 grand final, but in the following years his form and ability was recognised when he earned 5 New South Wales and 12 Test jerseys.

Halfback: Cooper Cronk

311 matches (2004-17), 91 tries, 20 field goals

Amazingly, Cooper Cronk wasn’t a halfback in junior football. Yet, he has transformed himself into one of the best game managers of recent decades through meticulous preparation and hard work. Always calm under pressure, Cronk’s pinpoint organisation of the Storm’s attack and his sublime kicking game are features of his play. He has also had a long and successful representative career for Queensland and Australia, with his ability to play several positions enhancing his utility value. In 2016 he was arguably in the best form of his stellar career, winning his second Dally M Player of the Year Medal as well as the Golden Boot award.

Prop: Jesse Bromwich

164 matches (2010-17), 22 tries

Jesse Bromwich is a three-time winner of the Storm’s Player of the Year award – an outstanding achievement in itself given the calibre of teammates he is competing against. He consistently makes big metres through the ruck, giving the Storm’s backline a great platform for their slick moves. Bromwich made his first grade debut for the club at just 20 in 2010. By the end of 2012, he was a premiership winner and a Test player for the Kiwis.

Hooker: Cameron Smith

345 matches (2002-17), 40 tries, 949 goals

Cameron Smith’s game sense is simply unmatched in modern rugby league. He guides the Storm around the field with his slick dummy half work and deft kicking game. His work rate in defence is also phenomenal. Smith is the Storm’s most capped player and their leading all-time point scorer. He’s also Queensland’s most capped player, and barring injury, he’ll likely break a number of other records before he hangs up his boots (including most NRL career points, most NRL games and most Tests).

A leader both on and off the field, Smith captained Melbourne to their 2012 premiership win and has been the long-term captain of both Queensland and Australia. He’s won a swag of individual awards over his career, including the Dally M Player of the Year (2006), the Golden Boot (2007) and the Dally M Hooker of the Year (six times).

Prop: Robbie Kearns

169 matches (1998-2005), 18 tries

Robbie Kearns became a foundation Storm player after starting his career at Cronulla and having a stint at the now defunct Western Reds. He won Melbourne’s Player of the Year award in their debut season, establishing himself as a State of Origin and Test player. A relentless worker, Kearns unfortunately missed the Storm’s premiership win in 1999 through injury, but captained the club for the next three seasons after Glenn Lazarus’ retirement.

Second Row: Kevin Proctor

179 matches (2008-16), 28 tries

Kevin Proctor is a hard-running backrower who made his debut for the Storm while still a teenager. He quickly established himself in Melbourne’s forward pack and went on to become an automatic selection in Kiwi Test teams. A highlight of his nine seasons at the Storm was the 2012 premiership, where he played a key role on the right edge. A lucrative offer from the Gold Coats Titans eventually saw him emotionally depart after Melbourne’s 2016 grand final loss to Cronulla.

Second Row: Stephen Kearney

139 matches (1999-2004), 20 tries

Stephen Kearney was an established New Zealand international when he became a key signing for the Storm for their 1999 premiership-winning year. His experience, size and ball-playing ability were invaluable for Melbourne’s forward pack in the early years of the club. A leader on and off the field, he was the Storm’s captain during his final two seasons in Melbourne. One of New Zealand’s finest players, Kearney was also named in our greatest Warriors XIII.

Lock: Ryan Hoffman

245 matches (2003-10, 2012-14), 59 tries

Ryan Hoffman is a tough, durable and hard-working backrower who seamlessly slotted into the Storm’s structured style of play during his ten seasons with the club. He was a vital weapon in the team’s armory, scoring tries in both the 2009 and 2012 grand final wins. Hoffman became a representative stalwart during his years with Melbourne, claiming 13 New South Wales and six Test jerseys.

So that’s my thoughts on the Melbourne Storm’s all-time greatest 13.

Have I got it right? How do you think they would manage against the other all-time greatest teams that we’ve covered in our series so far?

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