STORM FINALS WARNING
Has there been a more ominous warning of what’s to come in the second half of an NRL season than what we saw in this year’s State of Origin series? In particular, the show put on by the new “Big Four” in Origin III?
After all the conjecture and speculation surrounding Queensland’s departure from its successful pick-and-stick selection policy of the decade just gone, that the Maroons would eventually field a “spine” of players from the same club seemed like an obvious solution to a problem many thought would take much longer – years maybe – to resolve.
The Storm’s fullback, five-eighth, halfback and hooker combination not only delivered Queensland its 11th Origin series in 12 years, it basically banged a “WATCH OUT” sign into the ground of planet rugby league on the eve of the finals. Reading into this further, if that combo could beat an all-star team like NSW in such dominant fashion, what’s in store for that spine’s mere club rivals over the coming weeks?
Going to print, the Storm sat pretty in purple at the top of the NRL ladder, their latest victims the Manly Sea Eagles, who they destroyed 40-6 at AAMI on Cameron Smith’s 350th NRL appearance. We all knew how well the Cooper Cronk, Smith and Billy Slater components of the spine would handle things in the Origin decider, but it’s the latest edition to the killer quartet that has blokes like Slater excited as the NRL finals loom large.
“I don’t think I’m any more confident than I was; I’ve always been confident in the players around us at the Storm, in particular Cam and Coop,” he says. “I think, if anything, that Origin decider only built our collective confidence in Cameron Munster [below]. For him to perform at that high level on that stage, that’s going to do amazing things for the way he approaches his footy. He’s a tremendous player and I think he’s going to benefit the most out of it.”