NRL Round 1 predicted teams: Melbourne Storm – Bellamy’s title hopes hinge on Papenhuyzen’s comeback
As part of a series profiling the expected Round 1 sides for all 17 NRL clubs in 2024, it’s time to see if Craig Bellamy can conjure up another title in Victoria before retiring.
Craig Bellamy needs Ryan Papenhuyzen back on the park and back to his best if the Storm are any hope of upsetting Penrith’s building dynasty in what could be his last year as coach.
The Storm were solid last season but lacked the attacking spark to ever seriously challenge the Panthers as the premiership benchmark.
Papenhuyzen is on the comeback trail yet again after suffering a broken leg late last season and returned to the US in December to again work with conditioning guru Bill Knowles.
The Storm are likely to be cautious with his latest return from a serious injury and he may not be right for the start of the season.
But they need him firing on all cylinders sooner rather than later as the 2020 Clive Churchill Medallist has the X-factor in attack that the Storm lacked last season.
The Storm have a settled and top-quality spine in the other slots with Cameron Munster, Jahrome Hughes and Harry Grant elite in their respective positions.
There are actually no new recruits in Melbourne this year as they try to keep their star-studded roster in place.
However, they have a rising star in Sualauvi Fa’alogo who showed in his one NRL match late last season that he can give the Storm a new attacking threat out wide. He will probably not make the Round 1 line-up but could be thrown into the big time again early in the season as a bench utility or in the starting side if injuries strike in the outside backs.
They’ve lost some experience in their pix with Tariq Sims jetting off to Catalans and Tom Eisenhuth linking with the Dragons.
Jayden Nikorima, George Jennings and Jordan Grant have also left but were infrequent members of the NRL side last season.
Key spots to unlock
Centre is in an unusual state of flux at the Storm.
PNG star Justin Olam lost his spot late last season and Nick Meaney is set to switch to the centres in 2024 to accommodate Papenhuyzen at fullback. Reimis Smith, Marion Seve and Young Tonumaipea are also in the mix.
Their depth in the pack has taken another step backwards so Bellamy can’t does too many injuries in the forwards.
At full strength they can muscle up with the best packs in the NRL but they are super thin if their first-choice big boppers are unavailable.
Round 1 predicted team
1 Ryan Papenhuyzen
2 Xavier Coates
3 Reimis Smith
4 Nick Meaney
5 Will Warbrick
6 Cameron Munster
7 Jahrome Hughes
8 Tui Kamikamica
9 Harry Grant
10 Christian Welch
11 Trent Loiero
12 Eliesa Katoa
13 Josh King
14 Tyran Wishart
15 Nelson Asofa-Solomona
16 Tepai Moeroa
17 Aaron Pene
Other squad members: Bronson Garlick, Chris Lewis, Alec MacDonald, Marion Seve, Justin Olam, Jonah Pezet, Joe Chan, Jack Howarth, Dean Ieremia, Young Tonumaipea.