Despite the fact that pretty much all of their established stars of the past decade are now collecting their pensions, Melbourne Storm will still be there or thereabouts in 2020 because they have Craig Bellamy in charge.
He’s the best coach on the planet and he has the best captain on the field in Cameron Smith.
He may be getting on at 36 years of age but what he lacks in pace these days, he more than makes up for in rugby smarts.
Despite Smith playing on, the spine of the team again looks different heading into 2020. Cameron Munster and Jahrome Hughes are likely to be the pairing in the halves with Brodie Croft now in Brisbane while Ryan Papenhuyzen (pictured) will play at fullback after impressing largely off the bench in the second half of last season for the Storm.
Curtis Scott has left the club to join Canberra so Marion Seve and Justin Olam are likely to monopolise the centre positions partnering speedsters Josh Addo-Carr and Suliasi Vunivalu on the wings.
The forwards are also strong for Melbourne. The Bromwich brothers, Kenny and Jesse, had their best years for some time while Nelson Asofa-Solomona made plenty of progress. Felise Kaufusi and Dale Finucane complete the pack.
Melbourne also have an able bench with Brandon Smith, Tui Kamikamica and youngster Tino Fa’asuamaleaui the ones to watch.
Coach: Craig Bellamy
Craig Bellamy (above) is one of, if not, the most respected coaches in the history of Rugby League.
He’s been head coach with Melbourne Storm since 2003 and there are plenty of coaches throughout the NRL who learned their trade under Bellamy at the Storm.
Under his tutelage, the Storm have become the most consistent club in the competition.
With him in charge, they’ll never be too far off competing for the title.
Star Player: Ryan Papenhuyzen
He may be a fairly new name for most in the UK, but Ryan Papenhuyzen could well be the star player for Melbourne in 2020.
Papenhuyzen is likely to play fullback this year with last year’s incumbent, Jahrome Hughes, moving to the halves to cover Brodie Croft’s exit to Brisbane.
Papenhuyzen represented Australia in the World 9s competition at Bankwest and showcased his undeniable raw speed which has terrified defences in his 23 NRL appearances to date.
His skill is perhaps as raw as his speed, but he could well be pivotal for the Storm in 2020.
Rugby League World Predicts: 1st
First published in Rugby League World, Issue 467 (March 2020)