Barely a month before they start pre-season training Melbourne are still waiting on skipper Cameron Smith to divulge his 2021 plans.
While Smith is doing the rounds in Queensland promoting his autobiography, assistant coach and former teammate Ryan Hoffman stepped up to collect the Storm’s latest award – Australasia’s best sporting team for the second successive year.
The NRL champions pipped Super Rugby Aerotoa titleholders and 2018 winners, the Crusaders, while AFL premiers Richmond finished fifth among 152 teams analysed from 18 sports competitions.
Melbourne donated $10,000 in prize-money for the award to the Starlight Foundation.
While it’s expected the 37-year-old Smith will retire, with his profile already removed from the Storm’s website, Hoffman joked they would need an answer before training resumed on January 4 or there would be penalties for the veteran hooker.
“We need to know whether to expect him here or if we’re going to need to fine him for not being at training,” Hoffman said on Tuesday.
“We’re ready for a decision when he’s ready – it’s a personal decision for him and as an organisation we’ve planned for both ways.
“Whatever happens with Cameron in the upcoming weeks we’ve put ourselves in good stead for 2021.”
The State of Origin players, including new superstar Harry Grant, will get a couple of extra weeks with the club still able to lock in two months of solid preparation before hosting the NRL season-opener against South Sydney on March 11.
In terms of the award, Gain Line Analytics – headed by former Wallabies prop Ben Darwin – combine with Platinum Asset Management to analyse sports teams, including e-sports, using a criteria that includes consistency in performance.
The results are also impacted by factors such as the size of the competition and the stability of the league and are based on rolling five-year outcomes.
“It’s really an award for governance,” Darwin said.
“Melbourne have done an amazing job in making sure that the club is sustainably successful – it’s not just about winning today but winning consistently.”
Darwin said a trend had emerged among the most successful teams.
“What we’ve found through our research is that clubs that are more development focused are far more successful,” Darwin said.
“We call that TWI (Team Work Index) and the No.1 TWI team won the NRL, AFL, the NBL and English Premiership Rugby and Super League.
“It tends to be the club that focus more on the long-term view rather than buying a good player, who then doesn’t perform.”