Storm can go back to back, says skipper - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Storm can go back to back, says skipper

By Melissa Woods 01/10/2007 07:40:13 PM Comments (0)

Cradling the NRL trophy, triumphant Melbourne skipper Cameron Smith boldly declared his side could win back-to-back premierships.

The Storm hooker has good reason to be confident after their emphatic victory in Sunday night's grand final as they ran in seven tries to two to crush Manly 34-8.

After a lengthy flight delay in Sydney, the bleary-eyed champions arrived back in Melbourne as about 1500 fans gathered at their training ground to welcome home their heroes.

As if they didn't have enough to celebrate, Melbourne's dominance was rewarded at the Australian Test selection with a club-record five players picked to wear the Kangaroos jersey against New Zealand in the one-off Test at Wellington on October 14.

Smith was handed the Test captaincy, just 12 months after first pulling on the green and gold, while Greg Inglis and Michael Crocker were recalled with Cooper Cronk and Ryan Hoffman handed debuts.

But it is Melbourne's monumental success which has many questioning how much longer they can dominate the NRL, with up to four of Sunday night's squad to leave in the offseason.

Star centre Matt King is to off play with English Super League club Warrington, prop Ben Cross will join Newcastle, and the futures of forwards Clint Newton and Jeremy Smith remain uncertain.

However with the average age only 24, Smith predicted a long and successful future for the side.

"I'd like to think so," he said.

"Obviously we're losing a couple of guys this year but most of our squad's very young and we're keeping the core of the group.

"Without putting too much pressure on all our guys I think we could go back to back.

"I think that will be one of the challenges the coaches set to us next year."

But Storm coach Craig Bellamy preferred to keep his prediction limited.

Melbourne have been the NRL benchmark for two years. Last year's minor premiership ending in a heart-breaking grand final defeat, and Bellamy isn't sure if the Storm can stay on top for a third season.

He said his players' market value would continue to sky-rocket which would make it difficult to keep the squad together under the salary cap.

"It's really hard with the salary cap," Bellamy said.

"When players start playing well everyone starts offering them more money.

"We're going to lose four or five players from this squad so it's going to be tough.

"Having said that, we've got some exciting players coming through who have played bit parts this year and will have to play the whole season for us next year."

Melbourne missed injured Queensland and Australian prop Antonio Kaufusi for most of 2007, Kiwi prop Adam Blair also had an injury-interrupted year plus they have young stars like Will Chambers and Kevin Proctor who are expected to emerge as stars in the near future.

While the future does certainly bode well for the Storm, Bellamy admits there is still pain involved in their 2006 grand final loss to Brisbane.

Bellamy delayed watching a replay of that defeat until only eight weeks ago, however he thought this year's decider would get more of a run.

He said it didn't take long for the relief of not losing another grand final to turn to elation.

"The overwhelming feeling is pretty much elation," he said.

"There was relief when we knew we had the game sewn up but that turned to elation when the full-time siren went."

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