Written by Oliver Kellner-Dunk
For the third time in ten years, the Melbourne Storm will be heading into an NRL season as defending premiers.
Despite being the competition’s most dominant side since joining in 1998, the Storm is yet to win back to back premierships and will be determined to do so in 2021.
In Melbourne’s pursuit to do so, they will take part in some amazing fixtures, with the top five listed below.
ROUND 1 – SOUTH SYDNEY RABBITOHS
To kick off the 2021 NRL season, the Storm will face a fellow title contender and top four favourites in the South Sydney Rabbitohs.
The hype around both sides heading into this year will create a finals match feel to this one, so hopefully, they will be able to live up to the expectations.
Melbourne have gotten the better of South Sydney in recent meetings; however, the score has been close, with a Bunnies side languishing at the bottom of the top eight hitting form after a close encounter with the Storm late last year.
ROUND 3 – PENRITH PANTHERS
Entry number two on this list speaks for itself.
Penrith and Melbourne battled it out on Australian Rugby League’s grandest stage in 2020, with the game well and truly living up to the hype.
After a dominant start from the Storm that saw them up 22-0 halftime, the Panthers came back with a second-half onslaught that was nearly enough to steal the win, as the full-time score ended up 26-20.
Fans will be hoping that these two put on a similar performance next time they meet.
"I'm really looking forward to a season with the Storm. I feel like I have a lot of the players and coaches respect to earn, that is one of my main goals this season… along with a top four finish."
We like the way you think, H (but go three places better 🏆).
— Melbourne Storm 🏆 (@storm) February 14, 2021
ROUND 5 – CANTERBURY-BANKSTOWN BULLDOGS
While the Storm and Bulldogs do have a history, going up against each other in the 2012 NRL Grand Final, this matchup does lack a storyline for fans to sink their teeth into.
The reason why this game makes the list is due to where it is being played, and the impact on the future of expansion in the competition.
Former NRL CEO Todd Greenberg’s highlight at the top of our game was his soon to be successful push into the Perth market.
At the time of Greenberg’s exit, the NRL had put on a doubleheader in Perth that drew a crowd of over 38,000, had the city host a sellout Origin game and the 2020 NRL Nines.
It is also important to note that at the end of 2018, the NRL reported a growth of 16.7% in grassroots participation across Western Australia.
Since Todd Greenberg has left the CEO job, the NRL and ARL have put a halt to Perth’s momentum, instead opting to invest in Brisbane.
Although, if the Storm and Bulldogs can draw a decent crowd to their upcoming fixture in Perth, then the NRL may once again decide to push for expansion out West.
ROUND 6 – SYDNEY ROOSTERS
Overall, the Melbourne Storm have been Australia’s best Rugby League club since the NRL Era began in 1998, with the Sydney Roosters a close second.
Whenever the two clubs meet, fans expect to see a classic encounter and they are rarely disappointed.
This rivalry was taken to new heights last season, as the Storm and Roosters faced off in what many consider 2020’s game of the year, with Melbourne taking the win in golden point 27-25.
If they can put on a display even half as good as that game this time around it will be monumental.
ROUND 7 – NEW ZEALAND WARRIORS
Every year the Melbourne Storm and New Zealand Warriors take part in an ANZAC Day clash where more than just two points are on the line.
We were, unfortunately, unable to see this fixture take place on ANZAC Day last year, so the return of this event will be a welcome one that will hopefully be able to host a full crowd.
The Roosters V Dragons game generally receives more hype; however, it can be argued that this game is more important as both Australia and New Zealand are being represented.