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The ones who got away: Melbourne Storm

The Roar logo The Roar 29/09/2022 Tony

This is the final article in the series where I’ll pick a team of the best players who got away from a club since 2000. Today – the Melbourne Storm. Surely they wouldn’t have lost any quality players?

The only criteria are that the player named must have made his debut for the Storm, left the club after 2000, and then played with another NRL club, rather than just retired or headed to obscurity in either the ESL or rugby.

(Details in brackets are the year the player debuted for Melbourne and the number of games played for the club.)

1. Greg Inglis (2005, 118 games) – Inglis was among the top players in the game in the mid 2000s, and won two grand-finals, but no premierships, for Melbourne. After the salary cap kerfuffle came to light, Inglis left for South Sydney in 2011, taking his boat with him, after reneging on plans to join the Broncos.

(Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

2. Israel Folau (2007, 52 games) – Folau scored a try on debut at the age of 18 and just kept on scoring them, racking up 21 tries in 27 games in his first season. He then made the Australian team at the end of the year and scored 2 tries in his Test debut. It was bad news for Melbourne the following year though, as he signed with Brisbane for the 2009 season. Dear oh dear!

3. Steve Bell (2001, 107 games) – Bell was a comparatively late bloomer in the NRL and didn’t hit first grade until the age of 25. He was a solid centre and continued to produce the goods after transferring to Manly in 2006, going on to win a premiership with them in 2008.

4. Justin O’Neill (2010, 67 games) – O’Neill was always a reliable player, and frequent try scorer, but found it difficult to lock down a permanent spot in first grade with Melbourne. Unwanted by the Storm at the end of 2014, he couldn’t have timed his move the Cowboys in 2015 any better, as he scored a try in their grand final victory that year.

5. Ben Hampton (2013, 35 games) – Better known as a “Mr Fixit” utility rather than a winger, Hampton was a junior representative star before debuting for the Storm 2013. Unable to secure a first grade position with Melbourne, he joined the Cowboys in 2017.

6. Gareth Widdop (2010, 71 games) – Widdop was a premiership winner with Melbourne and also firmly entrenched in the English test team, but was probably overshadowed by the Storm all-star line-up, prompting him to head to the Dragons in 2014 where his career blossomed.

7. Cooper Cronk (2004, 323 games) – Cronk was one of the best halves to play in the NRL era, and it came as a shockto everyone except Nick Politis when he announced he’d be joining the Roosters in 2018 after 14 years at the Storm. The Storm’s loss was the Roosters gain, and the Roosters won back to back premierships in the next two years, including a grand-final victory over the Storm in 2018, and eliminating the Storm in the finals in 2019. Wow!

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8. Adam Blair (2006, 121 games) – Blair was one of the game’s hard men and a seasoned NZ forward, but he left for Wests in 2012 on a lucrative contract. Hard for the Storm to compete and keep them all.

9. Brandon Smith (2017, 107 games) – Smith is one of the best hookers in the game and a damaging running forward, but he will become the Storm’s latest high profile departure when he joins the Roosters next season.

10. Jordan McLean (2013, 86 games) – The big front rower spent his early years with the Storm primarily on the bench but by 2016 had firmly established himself in the run-on side, and was selected for Australia the following year. He moved to the Cowboys in 2018 but never really realised his early potential.

11. Ben Roarty (1998, 101 games) – Roarty was there for both the Storm’s first season in 1998 and their first premiership the following year but, he left the club for the Panthers in 2002 for increased opportunities in the run-on team.

12. Tohu Harris (2013, 117 games) – Harris was one of the Storm’s best forwards and part of their 2017 premiership winning team but he accepted a lucrative offer to join the Warriors in 2018. One of the best forwards to escape the Storm’s clutches.

13. Tino Fa’asuamaleaui (2019, 27 games) – Big Tino is one of the best in the game and really looked the goods when he debuted as a 19 year old in 2019. The same year, he signed on for the Titans for 2021 and beyond and has gone from strength to strength.

Whichever way you look at it, that’s a talented line-up of players to exit the club, but you can’t keep them all under the salary cap, as the Storm discovered the hard way in 2010.

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