The Storm roared out of block in 2022 and were on top of the table heading into Round 10, but they finished with a whimper.
But a horror run of injuries saw them finished outside of the top four for the first time since 2014 and their season ended with three straight losses.
Melbourne managed to re-sign Jahrome Hughes, Ryan Papenhuyzen and Harry Grant but it could cost them Cameron Munster who has been in negotiating with the club all year.
Craig Bellamy’s two-decade reign at the club is coming to an end with the legendary coach also extending this year but in doing so confirmed next season will be his last.
Bellamy was left frustrated with his side’s performance against the Raiders on Saturday in a loss that ended their season.
Read on for the Storm’s 2022 season review.
2022 Record: W15 L9 / 62.5% win record
What went right: After a tumultuous off-season, Cameron Munster turned back the clock tofind career-best form in the opening months of the season.
His dazzling display on Anzac Day was one to remember with the star five-eighth setting up three tries, getting two linebreaks, two linebreak assists, two offloads and six tackle busts as well as running for 151 metres in the Storm’s 70-10 shellacking of the Warriors.
It all came down to Munster’s stint in rehab over the off-season to battle some demons. He ditched the drink and found a way to become an even better player.
As the season went on and players around him started to drop, no one was game enough to put a line through the Storm because, well, they had Munster.
The 27-year-old got thrown into fullback during the last month of the seasons and even that didn’t rattle him.
Munster’s form was so good this year that the Storm had no choice to but bump up their offer after initially lowballing him for 2024 and beyond.
The Storm did successfully extended Jahrome Hughes (2026), Ryan Papenhuyzen (2025) and Harry Grant (2026) but it could cost them Munster.
Munster is a magician in the halves but his career-best fitness levels allowed him to play the final six games of the season at fullback for the first time since 2018.
When Melbourne beat the Panthers 16-0 last month, Munster played at the back and ran for 142 metres, had five tackle busts two linebreak assists and also kicked for 537m.
“He’s just playing really well,” Penrith coach Ivan Cleary said after the loss.
His hat-trick against the Titans, a long with eight tackle busts, two linebreaks, a linebreak assist and 199 running metres was another performance to remember.
“It’s been handy this year,” Bellamy said of having the option of playing Munster at fullback.
“The last few months or so with Paps being out and Nick missing a week. He’s certainly a different character Munster but he’s a great guy to have around the club and obviously one hell of a player.
“We’re fairly lucky to have him. The other big thing about him is he’s such a competitor. He just competes in everything at training and in games. That’s what makes him what he is.”
What went wrong: Injuries, injuries and more injuries.
It all started in Round 1 when George Jennings and Christian Welch suffered respective ACL and Achilles ruptures.
Then came Ryan Papenhuyzen’s horror run.
The electric fullback suffered a hamstring tear and PCL injury in Round 9 and was sidelined for six weeks. He returned for three games and then suffered a season-ending knee injury.
Reimis Smith also got struck with terrible luck with the rising centre tearing his pectoral in Round 9 and then re-injuring it at training, effectively ruling him out for the remainder of the season.
Somewhere in the middle of all that Xavier Coates picked up a serious ankle injury while playing Origin and missed almost two months of action.
Bellamy shuffled the deck chairs several times throughout the season to fill holes and even called in reinforcements by picking up Wests Tigers winger David Nofoaluma on a loan deal.
But the injury list took its toll on Melbourne and they finished outside of the top four for the first time since 2014.
They lost to the Roosters and Eels heading into the finals a poor defensive showing saw them upset by the Raiders on Saturday night.
“They’ll (Melbourne) be disappointed because they were a top four side, Bellyache (Craig Bellamy) alluded to the injuries and they’ve had a casualty ward probably bigger than anyone,” former NRL coach Anthony Seibold said on SEN
“Ryan Papenhuyzen, we know what he can do and he’s an outstanding player, he’s essentially been missing for the entire season, (also) Jahrome Hughes and Cameron Munster have all had time off the park too.
“It’s been a big workload for Harry Grant, he’s played all three Origin’s in season for the first time in his career, they looked a bit fatigued at different times throughout the year.
“They sort of had a spike a couple of weeks before the end of the season and I thought they were going to jag that fourth spot and give themselves an opportunity (at the premiership).”
What they need: A clean bill of health and for Munster to re-sign.
The superstar playmaker is one of Melbourne’s best players but he could be set to walk out the door and become the richest player in history at the Dolphins.
Munster is off contract at the end of next season which means he can table offers from clubs on November 1.
Dolphins coach Wayne Bennett is ready to pay the 27-year-old worth $1.3 million per season on a long-term deal.
Melbourne initially offered Munster a deal worth around $750,000 per season in 2024 and 2025 but they’ve since upped following his standout form this season.
“We think that we’ve put forward an offer that represents and reflects what he brings to our club,” Storm chief executive Justin Rodski said last month.
“I know he wants to be a one-club player and I know that he loves Melbourne, we’re hopeful that offer is enough for him to stay, and we can sign him on long-term and he can become that one-club player.”
Munster’s manager Braith Anasta said after meeting with Rodski that the Storm are in the ballpark but said his client will likely head to the open market on November 1.
“Melbourne have definitely put in an impressive offer forward, it’s going to be coming down to Cameron,” Anasta said on NRL 360.
“It’s going to be the hardest decision of his life.”
Going: Jesse Bromwich, Kenny Bromwich, Felise Kaufusi (all Dolphins), Brandon Smith (Roosters), David Nofoaluma (return to Tigers)
Coming: Tariq Sims (Dragons), Eliesa Katoa (Warrior), Joe Chan (Catalans Dragons)