A Shallow Dive into the 2022 Melbourne Storm

Your men’s Melbourne Storm finished the season in fifth place with a 15-9 record and +247 points difference. The Storm qualified for the finals where they were promptly dispatched by the Canberra Raiders in week one, at home, by a score of 28-20.

Melbourne had the best attack in the NRL, scoring 27.4 points per game, the third best in franchise history (only 2004 and 2021 were better). Conversely, the Storm’s defence was only fourth best in the NRL, conceding 17.1 points per game, which was the worst Storm defensive performance since 2014.

Their Pythagorean expectation had them as a 17 win team, two better than their actual record, which would have been good enough for one more step up the ladder. It’s hard to know if this was bad luck on their part of simply running up scores in a couple of games. Its the biggest Storm underperformance since 2008.

There is no Storm NRLW team nor any known plans for one in the near future.

The Victory Lap

From the pre-season deep dive:

I actually wanted to give this a vibe of moving down but it was a stretch because that implies some sort of substantial change. At worst, the Storm are moving from a top two lock to maybe a lazy top four or five finish and I’d like to say something like “I’m not sure they’ve quite got the squad to match the pace of the Panthers, the Roosters’ roster won’t resemble a hospital ward this year and the Eels have shown they can at least keep up with the Storm, all of which makes finishing in the top echelon that much more difficult”, but the Storm repeatedly find a way. Likely they will again this year and, if nothing else, they start as the paper favourites. The Sims have them at $3.50 to win the whole thing and its only March.


What happened

By now you’ll already know the trivia around historical finals appearances for the Storm and Roosters:

Despite the fact that at least half of the NRL would cut off various limbs to finish fifth and have a week one finals exit, I don’t think it’s a big secret where it went wrong for the Storm. The bench was a noticeable weak spot but I think the outside backs copped a lot of blame that perhaps should have been directed at the pack.

Eliminating the two six again seasons where the backs had an absolute field day for generating production, the pack and bench didn’t perform, or at least not as well as in comparable years. Collectively, they ran for the ninth most metres, tenth most post-contact metres and fourteenth most hit ups in the league. Put those numbers up where the Storm would have preferred, closer to the top four, and it’s possibly a different story for Melbourne. Instead, the playmakers had to do their best to fill in the gaps.

Here is the breakdowns for forward and bench players with at least 5 games played in 2022 and in 2019:

The main takeaway is that there are more black dots above the .100 line and more green ones below. The margins aren’t immediately obvious but we’re talking about the difference between fifth and first, and the difference between a week one exit against Canberra and a preliminary final loss against the eventual premiers. That gap is not huge on the field – the Pythagorean expectation for both seasons were separated by just two wins – but the perception of the end result is. Still, the Storm didn’t have anywhere near enough this year to seriously challenge.

There’s always next year

With no obvious revolutionary talents filtering through either the Falcons or the Tigers this season, despite the Falcons playing a preliminary final this year, and half the current starting pack leaving for the Dolphins, the Storm are in a real pickle for the first time in a long time. Whatever they do, it is going to be tougher than they’re used to and it might be time for a retool, rather than a rebuild, and an adjustment of expectations moving forward.

Both Bromwiches and Kaufusi are leaving for the Dolphins, which has its upsides (losing Jesse Bromwich) and downsides (losing Kenny Bromwich). In comes Eli Katoa and Tariq Sims, which could be one of those masterstrokes that the Storm are famous for or one of their quiet washouts or one of each. The return from injury of Christian Welch cannot be understated. Brandon Smith is moving to the Roosters, leaving Harry Grant to run an extremely up tempo bludgeoning offence. Craig Bellamy could do his job in his very, very angry sleep at this point.

And suddenly, I’m not worried about their prospects anymore. They’ll still find a way to win every game they play at Suncorp, a number surely increasing by 50% next year with the arrival of Moreton Bay’s most extant football team. The Storm have a better record at Suncorp than at AAMI Park, so can basically rely on 14 home games next year, which just seems unfair.

But like the rising of the sun every morning or the second law of thermodynamics, some things just are what they are and we have to live with it.