With just the two losses in the Telstra 2019 NRL Premiership competition, it is hard to envision any of the other 15 clubs doing much to slow the Melbourne Storm, but as Hawthorn proved by skinning Geelong in AFL Round 18, our vision is far from foolproof.
Melbourne have won five consecutive and have lost just once at home and once while touring.
The Storm’s point differential is frankly ludicrous. The NRL tries mightily to provide parity and for the most part, they have been successful, but Melbourne is to the NRL what Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes have been to F1 racing, far too proficientin every aspect to be threatened by any challenger.
This is the background agasint which Manly comes along for the Round 19 game with the Storm and while the Sea Eagles have managed to reside on the fifth rung of the ladder, beating Melbourne might be the highlight of the season. It could move manly into the top four, but will not threaten Melbourne’s position on top.
Players playing with the certainty that a win or loss does not matter play with the sense of abandon that lets them swing for the fences and Manly can expect a Storm team with the freedom to create beyond the usual boundaries.
Sydney found a way to beat Melbourne in Round 6, but the one-point victory hardly supplies anything any of the other clubs could regard as a formula for success.
New Zealand came within a point of victory in Round 7. The Sharks won by two points over Melbourne in Round 8.
The Storm appeared somnambulant for three weeks, but awoke in Round nine to do a big number on Parramatta.
Small wonder, then, that Melbourne not runaway favourites for the 2019 Premiership. Ladbrokes has them posted at $3.50 to Sydney’s $3.
Their odds setter must be drinking too much of the NSW Kool-Aid.
Form would suggest on October 6 Grand Final featuring Sydney and Melbourne, but the best prospect of Sydney would seem to be in the form of scheduling a big-money Thoroughbred race on the same day.