Melbourne Storm have been one of the NRL’s most successful clubs since they were founded in 1998, and while many factors have played a part in their on-field dominance, there is no denying their connection to their affiliate clubs in the Hostplus Cup has been a key one.
Coach Craig Bellamy is widely considered to be one of the best ever in the game and he has shown great faith in the ability of Cup to develop his players to reach the next level.
The current Storm spine all played in Cup before making their mark in the NRL and they are all are currently setting the competition alight.
Fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen leads the Dally M tally following Round 7, closely followed by halfback Jahrome Hughes.
Add in Queensland Maroons duo Harry Grant at hooker and a rejuvenated Cameron Munster at five-eighth, and it’s easy to see how the side sit in second place on the premiership ladder.
The spine has collectively played 171 Cup games, mostly via the Storm feeder clubs of Brisbane Tigers and Sunshine Coast Falcons.
However, Munster also played with Central Queensland Capras, where he won rookie of the year honours, while Hughes also turned out for Townsville Blackhawks and Tweed Seagulls and was crowned fullback of the year while playing with Townsville in both 2015 and 2016.
These figures also don't include the games of Brandon Smith, who played for both the Tigers and the Falcons, and often fills in at dummy half.
Papenhuyzen, Hughes and Grant only played the one game all together and they won 38-0 against the Capras in Round 9, 2018. In that game, Hughes scored two tries, Grant one and Papenhuyzen kicked five goals.
The spine are just a snapshot of the Storm players who have developed their skills in Cup, with the 2016, 2017 and 2020 grand final teams all featuring an abundance of Cup-honed talent.
QRL statistician Brad Tallon has run the numbers for all four Melbourne Storm spine players in Cup below.
Storm 2022 spine in Cup
Years played: 2018-2019
Game statistics: 19 games, six tries, 26 goals, one field goal, 77 points
Years played while at Storm: 2017-2018
Game statistics while at Storm: 18 games, nine tries
Years played overall: 2014-2018 including Tweed and Townsville
Game statistics overall: 65 games, 29 tries
Years played 2017-2019
Game statistics: 41 games, 22 tries
Years played overall: 2012-2015 for Central Queensland Capras and Easts Tigers
Game statistics: 46 games, 30 tries, 12 goals, 144 points
Played together in Cup
Ryan Papenhuyzen and Jahrome Hughes = 12 games
Jahrome Hughes and Harry Grant = three games
Ryan Papenhuyzen and Harry Grant = 15 games
Ryan Papenhuyzen, Jahrome Hughes and Harry Grant = one game