So it Turns out the Big 3 were Holding the Storm Back All Along
It was only three years ago that the Melbourne Storm boasted not just the top three players in the game, but 3 men who had already been touted as future immortals before their career was over.
The dynasty created by Billy Slater, Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk was unrivalled in its superiority, and the success achieved by these three seemed unmatchable by any team in the near future.
Yet here we are in 2021, 16 rounds into the competition and witnessing a record-breaking season the likes of which haven’t been seen by any club in NRL history.
It seems that among the glory of the days of the Big 3, no one realised that their retirement wouldn’t spell the end of the Storm’s legacy, but instead usher in a newer, better and more successful era.
Some may put this down to new rules suiting their style of play, others see Bellamy’s coaching skills ageing like a fine wine as a reason for this improvement, and while these factors may have played a contributing role, one dramatic shift over the last 3 years has been ignored by the Rugby League masses.
Our team was basically being run by 40-year-olds.
Yes, despite all their skills, knowledge and expertise, there is no denying that at the back end of their careers, the Big 3 were closer to walking sticks than they were to dummies.
Enter the youthful exuberance of Munster, Hughes, Pap, Hynes, Grant, Cheese, Welch, Fox, Olam, the list goes on and on.
Remarkably, out of the Storm’s preferred starting 17, Jesse Bromwich is the only player over the age of 30.
This new team of young throbbers has already surpassed the success of 2017’s premiership season, with one more win by round 16, and ridiculously, have already scored 9 more 40+ point victories than their previous counterparts.
The fact that this could be achieved while our first-choice fullback and hooker have played less than half the season should scare even the most one-eyed NRL fans.
While the unparalleled footy IQ of the big 3 will be remembered for years to come, the new look Storm is putting their predecessors at risk of being forgotten, as their successful reign is not just being matched by the new generation, but being improved upon as well.
This new school of thought in Melbourne Storm critical theory forces fans to reframe their perspectives of the club’s history. We must honour and recognise the Big 3 for their achievements, but also for paving the way to greater success achieved after the sun had set on their careers.
So as the years roll on, we hope that the exploits of Smith, Slater and Cronk will still be remembered, although it would not come as a surprise if future NRL fans view the Big 3 as merely a precursor to the sheer dominance that followed.
One thing is for sure, if you breathed a sigh of relief as the last of the Big 3 settled into retirement, you were sorely mistaken. The best was yet to come, and it seems like there’s no escape from the Storm’s supremacy, at least for the next 5 years or so.
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