BY CURTIS WOODWARD
Sometimes the full-time score in a rugby league game does not reflect where two teams are – it is even harder to predict their futures when it’s the opening game of the season.
The Melbourne Storm kick-started their 2019 campaign with a 22-12 victory over the Brisbane Broncos in front of an always passionate crowd at AAMI Park.
After a forgettable off-season (when do we get a good one?), footy did the talking and it was the Storm who strolled onto their home patch and gave the Broncos a footballing lesson.
Forget the score.
Despite a few minutes of chaos, Melbourne were never troubled.
Craig Bellamy’s team looked like they’d never stopped playing since last year’s grand final loss to the Sydney Roosters. From the first minute, they were slick. They shifted the ball, smartly, from one fringe to the other and worked the Broncos across the field like clockwork.
The Broncos looked slow – as if they didn’t expect Melbourne, in Melbourne, to be so good. For that, you have to blame their new coach Anthony Seibold.
Jahrome Hughes scored in the third minute and from there, the Broncos were playing from behind. They battled to keep their heads above water. To their credit, they kept the score close at half-time but nobody in their right mind ever thought they were winning this game.
Many good experts believed Brisbane were a premiership heavyweight in their pre-season predictions – many tipped them to beat the Storm in Melbourne on Friday night. It’s only round one and, of course, they can win the competition but they have so far to go.
Melbourne, without the raw of the crowd behind Billy Slater, didn’t miss a beat. They weren’t just clinical, they played awesome rugby league. Brisbane were still choking on their Powerade before they knew what had happened.
Brisbane’s problem in 2019 isn’t going to be longevity. They’re fit and they hung on as long as they could. Prop Matt Lodge played big minutes, as did Matt Gillett returning from injury but for all their pre-season flash and one-city jazz, they’re missing premiership credentials.
Channel Nine’s commentary team tried as they could to keep viewers interested in the contest and they owe Brisbane winger Corey Oates a brown paper bag for keeping it close in those few minutes but when the Storm needed to extend, they did.
On paper, or SuperCoach or whatever you call it these days, the Broncos look like world beaters. A monster pack, gun outside backs and a new coach everybody seems to think is going to be the next Jack Gibson.
In reality, they boast a bunch of rookie cyborgs and a spine that can’t possibly steer this side into October.
Captain and fullback, Darius Boyd, was gusty but looks like he lacks the extra yard of pace that made him one of the best custodians in the game five years ago. Boyd was never really quick, never big. Without that burst of speed, he’s in trouble.
Andrew McCullough is a freak. One of the toughest players to compete in the modern game. But he can’t dominate a game with the ball out of dummy half.
The problem with Kodi Nikorima and Anthony Milford is obvious. Neither are creators. They aren’t talkers or leaders. Where do Brisbane get their control from?
And despite his flaws and his on-field antics, Josh Maguire will be the one they regret letting go.
Brisbane will get their wins back on a fast track at Suncorp Stadium but in the big games when they need some leadership, or some experience, or some direction, where is it coming from?