Storm looking to bounce back in 2009 - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Storm looking to bounce back in 2009

By Melissa Woods 01/03/2009 10:55:18 PM Comments (0)

Melbourne only have to look back to 2007 for a reminder of how to rebound from a shock NRL grand final loss.

And there have been few as surprising as their 40-0 shellacking by Manly in last season's decider.

But having lost to Brisbane in 2006 after being the best side throughout the year, the Storm showed how to bounce back in style to capture the follow-up title over the Sea Eagles in a record-setting year.

Storm backrower Ryan Hoffman said they were confident they still had the talent and desire to reach their fourth successive grand final, and win it.

"We're really looking forward to this year. There's no reason why we can't be as successful as we have been in the past three years," Hoffman said.

"Losing the grand final definitely hasn't affected our confidence, we're still as confident in our ability and what we can do as a team as ever.

"We've got so many young blokes and new guys at the club at the moment.

"There's a great fresh feel and they're looking to capitalise on what we've achieved in the last three years and obviously doing even better."

Coach Craig Bellamy is more circumspect.

"That (2006 premiership) was two years ago," he said.

"It's the same scenario in that we'd lost the grand final but I can't remember what our focus was in 2007.

"I remember that we were hurting from losing the grand final and we didn't want to live with that the whole pre-season so we put it to one side once we got back into training, and that's what we've done again.

"We'd like to change the result but we can't so we're only worried about 2009."

Helping the cause is that Hoffman is one of a host of stars who recently signed long-term contracts at the club, joining internationals including skipper Cameron Smith, Greg Inglis, Cooper Cronk, Dallas Johnson, Adam Blair and Sika Manu.

Coach Bellamy has also committed until the end of 2013.

On the other side of the ledger Melbourne lost Jeremy Smith (Dragons), Israel Folau (Brisbane) and Michael Crocker (Hull, pending visa clearance).

Bellamy said he was looking to some young talent to make the difference this season.

Following the loss of giant centre Folau and the retirement of Matt Geyer, he has called on promising backs Willie Isa, Will Chambers, Joseph Tomane and Dane Nielsen to fill the vacancies, and also put pressure on Melbourne's established stars.

"Izzy's one of a kind and we didn't want to lose him but we did. But whoever takes that position, they'll bring different strengths to the team," Bellamy said.

Competition is also rife in the forward pack with seasoned campaigners, props Wairangi Koopu (Warriors), Clifford Manu (Broncos) as well as super-fit backrower Hep Cahill (Roosters) and hooker Ryan Hinchcliffe (Raiders) among the new faces.

"Obviously we've had some guys who have left the club so we've got some holes to fill.

"The new guys at the club are working really hard and doing really well," Bellamy said.

Hinchcliffe is earmarked for a key role as back-up dummy half, with Test rake Smith likely to spend some time at five-eighth to allow Inglis to play in his preferred centre position.

Wherever superstar Inglis plays he's set to make an impact having piled six kilograms on to his athletic frame to now tip the scales at 107kg.

While the Storm players may be talking up their premiership credentials, other NRL captains aren't so sure.

In a pre-season poll the club failed to gain a single vote when the skippers were asked which team was most likely to make the grand final.

But given they've been there on the final day the last three season, it would be brave to tip against them making it four on the trot.

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