Andrew Johns has predicted Melbourne will come back to the pack next year. Picture: Joel Carrett
Andrew Johns has predicted Melbourne will come back to the pack next year. Picture: Joel Carrett

‘Blow the club up and start again’: Johns' Storm warning

THE Melbourne Storm's decade of NRL dominance is over, according to rugby league immortal Andrew Johns.

With the retirement of Billy Slater as well as Cameron Smith's mind games over his future, with no contract for next year as yet, Johns said the league's dominant force would come back to the pack next year.

The Storm signed young stars Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Slater's heir apparent at fullback Jahrome Hughes and young half Scott Drinkwater on Friday.

But speaking to Wide World of Sports for Immortal Behaviour, Johns said the Storm might have to "blow the club up and start again".

"Cameron Smith hasn't really said if he's going to play on or not," Johns said.

"But it's the end of an era and you can't replace those players, so they have to blow the club up and start again, especially their attack, how they attack differently.

"For me I think they're about to come back to the field."

Cameron Smith doesn’t have a contract and Billy Slater has retired, the last two of the Melbourne Big Four. Picture: Mark Kolbe/Getty
Cameron Smith doesn’t have a contract and Billy Slater has retired, the last two of the Melbourne Big Four. Picture: Mark Kolbe/Getty

The NRL grand final was a nightmare for the Storm, and Johns labelled the side's first half against the Sydney Roosters "the worst I've seen Melbourne Storm play for probably 10 years".

The Roosters went on to win 21-6 to seal the grand final and resign the Storm to its second loss in the decider in three seasons.

Retiring champion Slater was booed throughout the grand final and Cameron Smith criticised the fans for their actions.

Slater later said he saw it as a sign of respect.

Johns weighed in, siding with Slater, saying it was a part of the NRL and most sports.

"Paul Gallen goes up to Suncorp Stadium, what happens up there?" Johns asked.

"All the best players in any code around the world, you go to soccer games in Europe, the best players get booed by opposition fans.

"I think a lot of people had the same attitude as myself and Freddy (Brad Fittler), that he shouldn't have been there.

"I was glad he was there but by the letter of the law it was a shoulder charge and if they were fair dinkum I don't think he should have been there and I think a lot of the crowd were like that.

"So he got booed, he wouldn't care less."

Andrew Johns said even if Smith stayed on, the Storm’s decade of dominance was over. Picture: Phil Hillyard
Andrew Johns said even if Smith stayed on, the Storm’s decade of dominance was over. Picture: Phil Hillyard

When it came to Smith playing on for the Storm and becoming the first player to pass 400 games, Storm chief executive Dave Donaghy said the club wouldn't force him into retirement without a fitting send-off.

"That's been my understanding (that Smith wants to play on) the whole way through," Donaghy said.

"I think when it comes to things like this, that they're better off done behind closed doors to our timeline rather than others.

"I'm really comfortable with where it's at and I'm really confident that we'll see Cameron run around again next year."

Smith is also just 32 points behind Hasem El Masri's all-time points record of 2418 points.

- with AAP


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