It barely feels like the dust has settled on the Melbourne Storm’s remarkable 2017 season. As the lads wrapped up the Ashes emphatically there are only a handful of one day and T20 games to go.
Then its on again.
Here are (in no particular order) the top 5 things to get excited about in 2018.
NRL Top 5 things to look forward to in 2018
1. The Return of Inglis
There was a bit of a hole in the 2017 season. At least of for Bunnies and QLD supporters as one of the most destructive players in recent history sat out the season with injury.
But guess who’s back? No not slim shady. Big GI.
With a full off season to recover and get back to his fighting best, the Rabbitohs will be looking for a much more successful season. Joining GI at the back for the Rabbitohs is Dane Gagai who was one of the best wingers at all levels in 2017.
The return of Inglis and the move from Gagai will add much needed points to Rabbitohs set up. They should be there or there abouts come September.
2. New Look Newcastle Knights
With the roster Nathan Brown has had the last 2 years, it’s a wonder the Knights could muster any type of win. But in 2017 they got that winning feeling back. And they proved they could stay in a contest for 80 minutes. Often times against bigger, faster, more experienced opponents.
With money to burn and the Cooper Cronk saga pushing Mitch Pearce onto the market, the Knights went hard. And got their man. We should see a different Mitch Pearce at the Knights. The weight of expectation has always weighed heavy at the Roosters. Here his job will be simpler and with less pressure imposed.
You add into the mix some other key recruits like Kaylan Ponga and Aiden Guerra, it makes for a very promising year.
3. Another Cowboys Crown?
Call it a fairy tale, call it luck or call it a run on emotion. The cold hard facts are these. The Cowboys went all the way to the Grand Final without 1.4 million dollars of salary cap. And that 1.4 million dollars was made up of the best prop in the world, Matt Scott. And the best player in the world, Johnathan Thurston.
Morgan almost carried the entire team on his own back into the 2017 finals and was the best player of the whole decider series. That coming of age earned him the coveted No.6 jersey for the world cup, and he is now considered a premier play maker.
Couple this with the return of the above mentioned players and if anyone is going to put a halt to the Melbourne Storm’s dominance it might just be the men from Townsville.
4. All Eyes On Hayne
His 2017 run sheet didn’t look all that impressive. A bad run of form, poor Origin series, got his coach sacked. Then when the clubs board of directors chose Hayne over Henry, he jumped ship. But not before holding off on his contract negotiations to pick up a little spending money along the way.
Now more than ever it looks as though Hayne is one of the highest players in history to be paid on promise not results. He keeps making deals on his 2009 and 2014 form. But in a career with only two purple patches, exactly when does Hayne have to start delivering. My guess is 2018.
The Eels finished right about where they probably should have in 2017. With a view that 2018 would be a top 4 finish and a crack at the big one. If they don’t muster at least a preliminary final and if Hayne doesn’t make some serious in roads, his career may start to wind up.
5. Filling Cooper’s Shoes
The Melbourne Storm have lost a lot of talent in 2018. Mclean, Harris and the biggest of them all Cooper Cronk.
But does that mean the juggernaut will come to a grinding halt. Not likely. It’s the thing that the Storm do that no other club can seem to replicate. Structure, structure and more structure. You see it in their attack and you see it in their defense. But you also see it in their front office and their back office. Every move is calculated and every scenario is plotted and covered.
They have a mantra at the Melbourne Storm, and that is ‘play your role’. And if you’ve seen the man replacing Cronk play, Brodie Croft, you will have seen he is almost cut from the same mould. Croft will have trained with the Storm all year and he will know the structures and plays. And most of all he will know his role.
Let’s not also forget that Cameron Smith and Billy Slater haven’t gone anywhere. Expect the Storm to be challenging again.