This article was first written for and published by The Daily Telegraph.
The Melbourne Storm boast a key champion trio in Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater who are all outstanding players but who are nearing the end of their careers. The Big 3 are NRL Supercoach royalty but can they contend with an exhausting season which will include State Of Origin duties and in the case of Billy Slater overcoming injury issues that have impacted him over the past few seasons.
The Big 3 are well supported by other Supercoach stars particularly Will Chambers, Jesse Bromwich, Tohu Harris, Marika Koroibete and Cameron Munster who are also very worthwhile Supercoach considerations.
Of these, Jesse Bromwich is considered a Supercoach gun that should see him remain one of the key Supercoach Front Rowers in 2016. Meanwhile Tohu Harris is an extremely reliable second row forward who averaged 60.67 points in his 24 appearances for the Storm in 2015. Whilst available in both second row and centre/wing position it is felt that at $383,600 Harris is fully priced and not the automatic must have that he was in Supercoach 2015.
Of considerable interest is Cameron Munster who should see a price drop as he switches form Full Back where he excelled in 2015 to the centre position vacated by Kurt Mann (St George Illawarra Dragons).
Coach Bellamy will have to carefully manage his key trio and emerging players such as Nelson Asofa-Solomona as well as several Storm rookies should see opportunities for game time in 2016.
Full analysis below:
INS: Cheyse Blair (Sea Eagles), Jeremy Hawkins (Raiders), Mark Nicholls (Raiders), Matt White (Titans).
OUTS: Ryan Hinchcliffe (Huddersfield), Kurt Mann (Dragons), Mahe Fonua (Hull), Matt Duffie (Union), Hymel Hunt (Rabbitohs), Tom Learoyd-Lahrs (Retired), Dane Weston (Centurions), Chanze Nicoll-Klokstad (Warriors).
PREDICTED BEST 17
Billy Slater, Marika Koroibete, Cameron Munster, Will Chambers, Cheyse Blair, Blake Green, Cooper Cronk, Jesse Bromwich, Cameron Smith (c), Jordan McLean, Kevin Proctor, Tohu Harris, Dale Finucane Interchange: Tim Glasby, Kenny Bromwich, Matt White, Nelson Asofa-Solomona.
The Melbourne Storm has relatively little change in personnel with no star recruits or departures. The most significant change will be the return of Billy Slater who only played 7 games in 2015 because of injury. His super replacement for the period of his lay off, Cameron Munster, will shift to centre to take the position vacated by the departing Kurt Mann (St George Illawarra Dragons).
Ryan Hinchcliffe’s departure (Huddersfield) sees a bench position open up which will most likely be filled by Matt White (Gold Coast Titans). Cheyse Blair will have first opportunity at a wing spot made available through the departures of Mahe Fonua (Hull) and Matt Duffie (Rugby Union).
Cameron Smith ($433,500)
Cameron Smith is a Supercoach Gun and undoubtedly the premier hooker in the NRL. His game is consistently outstanding and includes high tackle counts, astute dummy half running, kicking goals, 40/20’s, tackle breaks and try assists. He is almost guaranteed 80 minutes every time he starts and is one of the only hookers to do so. In 2015 Cameron Smith played 23 games for the Storm averaging 68.57 Supercoach points. As an alternate captain choice Cameron Smith rarely lets you down in performance and output.
He has good bye coverage for a State Of Origin player as he only misses the three big bye weeks. He will have to back up however after gruelling State of Origin games. If included in initial NRL Supercoach squads Cameron Smith is a set and forget player who will deliver excellent Supercoach output and only needs coverage during the tricky State Of Origin period.
Jesse Bromwich ($392,800)
Jesse Bromwich is a premium front row forward who continues to improve his game. He has a huge motor and this coupled with an ability to make metres and offload, along with a high work rate and tackle count, sees him consistently deliver in terms of Supercoach points. In 2015 he played 24 games averaging 62.13 Supercoach points.
Jesse Bromwich has got the ability to extend his playing time and could be a beneficiary of the reduced number of interchanges that will be available to Coach Bellamy. He should be considered as one of the must have options in initial NRL Supercoach squads.
Billy Slater ($305,700)
Billy Slater looms as one of the highest risk/reward strategy players in NRL Supercoach 2016. At his best Billy Slater is a Supercoach gun. However, he only played 7 games in 2015 due to injury averaging 53.71 Supercoach points. He has had surgery and been given ample time to fully recover which will mean he is ready for to start 2016 fully fit. If fit and back to his best Slater would be a master stroke pick in NRL Supercoach squads. His price of $305, 700 would be a bargain if near his best. However he has been prone to injury in recent seasons and at 32 could be seen as having already played his best games.
Slater could prove to be an extremely useful point of difference for many Supercoach teams if the gamble pays off.
Nelson Asofa-Solomona ($201,700)
Nelson Asofa-Solomona appeared 10 times for the Storm in 2015 and scored an average of 31.90 Supercoach points. He is built with immense power, speed and raw potential and at just 20 years old at 2016 season commencement has been bought only carefully by Bellamy. In his rookie season he averaged 23 minutes and in only 5 games did he play 30 minutes plus. He should gain vast improvement from his rookie season and is likely to gain in minutes from the low minutes played in several of his 2015 starts.
In a season where cash cows will be at a premium he looms as a player that will increase in value and become ripe for upgrading toward the bye rounds.
NO GO ZONE
Cameron Munster ($391,300)
Cameron Munster should be considered as a No Go Zone player in INITIAL Supercoach squads simply because of his move away from the position which allowed him to reach stellar heights in 2015. Munster at fullback during the absence of Billy Slater was revelation and a huge Supercoach success. He played 17 games averaging 61.88 Supercoach points. His work rate and Supercoach performance increased as the season progressed and his strength and fitness along with his familiarity with the Storm structure and style of play improved.
With the return of Billy Slater, Cameron Munster will be playing centre in the position vacated by the departing Kurt Mann (St George Illawarra Dragons). Whilst his immense talent is recognised he is most likely not going to have the opportunity to reach the level of 2015 and his starting price should accordingly drop.
The situation changes if Billy Slater has any injury concerns or from Round 13 where he would be covering Billy Slater in bye Round 15 and if Slater is rested in the weeks backing up from the gruelling State Of Origin series. At that time Munster could be at a price which would move him from a No Go Zone to almost must have status.
The Storm should provide the opportunity for several rookies in 2016. These include hard running Tony Tumusa who could challenge for a wing position.
Joe Stimson is also an impressive Storm rookie who has emerged from the Storm development system. A rangy second rower or lock he has a high work rate and could emerge as rookie option during the season. Dean Britt is another second row rookie who is mobile and skilful which should see him make his first grade debut during the 2016 season.
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