Squad Breakdown: Melbourne Storm 2023 Supercoach analysis

2020 NRL Supercoach runner-up Tim Williams takes a deep dive into the credentials of the Melbourne Storm for Round 1.

NRL Pre Season

1. Nick Meaney
2. George Jennings
3. Justin Olam
4. Reimis Smith
5. Xavier Coates
6. Cameron Munster
7. Jahrome Hughes
8. Christian Welch
9. Harry Grant
10. Nelson Asofa-Solomona
11. Trent Loiero
12. Tariq Sims
13. Josh King

14. Tyran Wishart
15. Tui Kamikamica
16. Tom Eisenhuth
17. Jack Howarth

Squad changes, via NRL.com

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Draw: First 10 rounds

Eels (A), Bulldogs (H), Titans (A), Tigers (H), Rabbitohs (A), Roosters (H), Sea Eagles (A), Warriors (H), bye, Rabbitohs (Magic Round, Suncorp).

First five round strength of schedule rating (1 toughest, 10 easiest)


2023 gains

Eliesa Katoa (Warriors), Tariq Sims (Dragons), Joe Chan (Catalans), Aaron Pene (Warriors).

2023 losses

Felise Kaufusi (Dolphins), Brandon Smith (Roosters), Jesse Bromwich (Dolphins), Kenny Bromwich (Dolphins), David Nofoaluma (Wests Tigers – return from loan), Cooper Johns (Sea Eagles).

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Team News

With Ryan Papenhuyzen looking more and more likely to miss an extended period of the season, Nick Meaney will deputise at fullback, seeing George Jennings likely start on the wing, while Dean Ieremia is another option. Meaney will also be the first choice goal-kicker.

With the departures of Kenny Bromwich and Felise Kaufusi, the edge back-row make-up is a genuine lottery at this stage.

The trials will tell the tale, with a host of candidates for the starting role.

They include: Trent Loiero, Tariq Sims, Eliesa Katoa, Jack Howarth, Tom Eisenhuth and Joe Chan.

Sims may also be utilised as a middle as he was at the Dragons in large periods of 2022, placing further uncertainty around the edges.

Tepai Moeroa is another in line for a bench spot, but he would play in the middle rotation if named.

From a Supercoach perspective, this is very significant ahead of round 1, although you’d be hard pressed trusting the minutes/rotation of whoever gets the early nod.

Should Jack Howarth get named on the bench, or starting, that would provide utility cover in the backline, which has the potential to see Tyran Wishart miss the side, locking in 80 minutes for Grant.

I think that’s probably wishful thinking, but it’s a possibility.

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Harry Grant ($816,500)

I’m very high on Grant despite his hefty price tag. The only reason I’d be starting without the Storm rake is if the cheapie scene is slim in Round 1, which is possible, forcing a move to Soni Luke to free up cash.

Here are a few stats from last year.

He started the year with scores of 92, 85, 79, 86, 80, 104, 138, equating to a 95 point average.

He finished the season with scores of 97, 73, 113, 54, 93, equating to an 81 point average.

Unsurprisingly, his scores and minutes reduced in and around the Origin period.

I’ve included the two games prior to and after Origin, along with his scores in between. In that time he had scores of 58, 49, 51, 78, 37, 66, 62, equating to an average of 57.

He’s the best hooker in the game, with my only slight concern being a weaker Storm pack, including Brandon Smith and his ability to produce a quick play-the-ball for Grant.

I’m hoping Grant, and master coach Craig Bellamy, are good enough to overcome any issues around ruck speed.

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Cameron Munster ($848,300)

Melbourne’s relatively friendly early draw brings their attacking contingent right into contention, despite a few big price tags.

The early Parramatta game looks tough, but Munster put 121 on them in his second game last season.

Lots of the Storm’s Supercoach contingent can be looked at during games with and without Ryan Papenhuyzen, such is the influence of Lil Papy. Munster is no different.

It sounds as though he won’t play the dual fullback/five-eighth role as per late last year.

He averaged 80 points without Papenhuyzen in the final eight rounds last season, but that was in that dual role.

He’s certainly a fair POD to start with great upside, but priced at a career high 81 point average, with Melbourne’s go-forward a concern, I like cheaper options at five-eighth.

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Jahrome Hughes ($721,300)

Plenty are leaning towards Jahrome Hughes on the back of the anti-POD play in starting without Nicho Hynes this season.

It’s a play with a fair amount of merit, although the lack of goal-kicking has always been a concern for me with Hughes, even if he has scored well.

Hughes is the one with promising stats without Papenhuyzen in the team.

He averaged 73 in five games without him late last season, not including the injury impacted game with the Titans.

In 2021 without Papy, he averaged 86 points in 10 games in the period he missed with concussion struggles.

Again, how good are Melbourne going to be this season and will their pack lay the platform for Hughes to dominate? Perhaps, but at a big price it’s a concern.

Probably not for me at this stage, but I see the appeal.

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Nick Meaney ($643,800)

I probably can’t see myself start with the new Storm fullback, but I am warming to Meaney.

He averaged 66.2 in 11 games at fullback last season, which is slightly misleading due to the dual role he had with Munster switching between halves and fullback, but I think the sole fullback role is where he scores best.

He’s priced on a 61 point average from last season, which he could eclipse with goal-kicking duties and a nice early drop. At least early in the season with the draw and no Papenhuyzen.

If only available at fullback I wouldn’t blink, but he may well be a very consistent scorer with upside at CTW.

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Christian Welch ($464,000)

Welch is another I’ve warmed to the further the pre-season goes on.

This is largely due to the fact that it appears tough to find those golden mid-range FRFs at this stage, it may well change as the trials play out though.

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Having played just one game last season, he’s priced on just a 44 point average. He averaged 59 points per game in 2021.

The fact he did his serious injury early last season means he has had ample recovery time.

Melbourne are relatively weak through the middle, so he could get decent minutes. Welch’s Supercoach output has been largely dictated by his freedom to offload by Bellamy.

I’m hoping we see him free the arm in trials to give him some upside. If so, I’m happy to start with him, hopefully knocking out 50-60 point scores before upgrading to a gun FRF.

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Reimis Smith ($316,800)

I like Smith to start the season as a cheapie, namely because he’s in a good team, with a fairly soft early draw, and he has great job security.

At this stage, there aren’t many around the same price bracket with his job security.

He’s priced at $316k, based on a 30 point average. Remarkably, he scored just one try and assisted another in that time, surely he improves that!!!

He averaged 51 points in 2021, granted that was an anomaly of a season with record score lines.

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The back-row – Option listed above

Outside of probably Tariq Sims, all of the players listed above in contention for the edge back-row roles will be relevant if named to start in round 1.

Jack Howarth would be the golden boy, with attacking upside, dual position, and at bottom dollar.

The Storm’s pre-season trials will be a vital watch.

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