Melbourne have edged back in front of Penrith this season in the enthralling battle for NRL domination between these two great teams that is into its third season.
Not by any fancy margin, mind you. There's still only a fingernail in it. But the Storm have been a fraction more impressive than the Panthers over the first nine rounds.
I put it down to three reasons, which revolve around key players in the Melbourne side.
Fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen - as brilliant a player as he already was - has incredibly gone to another level with his form.
Papenhuyzen spent an extended period off the field last season due to a major concussion issue and when he resumed playing he appeared hesitant. But he gradually began to excel again and was improving rapidly towards the end of the season.
This season, he has set the competition on fire. Papenhuyzen may or may not now be the best player in the NRL - it's a matter of opinion - but at the very least he's in the discussion.
It's unfortunate that knee and hamstring injuries have ruled him out of the Storm's blockbuster Magic Round clash with Penrith at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night. I'll come back to that game.
The Storm aren't short of players who are in that best-in-the-NRL discussion.
Five-eighth Cameron Munster has, at various times during his career, been the best player in the competition. His form has been known to fluctuate a bit, but this season he has consistently been on fire.
He had a stint in rehab after last season had ended to try to overcome personal problems. These things are always an ongoing battle, but he's got a young family now and he looks and sounds happy. He's right in the thick of that best-in-the-game discussion again.
Obviously the constant speculation about his playing future - he's contracted to Melbourne until the end of next season, but the new Queensland-based team the Dolphins would love to pry him away ASAP if they could - hasn't distracted him.
He appears to be one of those players who isn't in the least bothered by all of the talk and perhaps even thrives on it. And with Brandon Smith having committed to Sydney Roosters for next season and beyond, the so-called "battle" for the starting hooking spot at the Storm no longer exists.
Harry Grant is now undisputed as the club's No.1 choice for that position going forward and the versatile Smith is coming off the bench and filling whatever role coach Craig Bellamy sees fit for him.
There was a time when it wasn't clear which of the two out of Grant and Smith would be the club's starting hooker into the future and amid the uncertainty it seemed like they were, subconsciously at least, playing off against each other.
I don't know if the situation they were in made it difficult for either of them and put one or the other off at times, but what is clear now that their individual futures are set in stone is that both Grant and Smith are performing like vital cogs in a well-oiled machine.
There is little between Penrith and Melbourne as the standout teams in the competition and that has been the case since the 2020 season, when the Panthers made their rise and won the minor premiership by five points, with the Storm finishing second.
They went on to meet in the grand final, but the inexperience of the mostly-young Panthers side told when they made far too many mistakes against the ultimate big-game team and fell way behind. As hard as they tried once they steadied, Penrith couldn't make up the leeway and lost 26-20.
Last year they again finished one-two in the minor premiership, but this time it was Melbourne on top - albeit only on for-and-against differential with each team on 44 competition points.
But the shock loss by Penrith against South Sydney in the first week of the finals threw the Panthers into the Storm's side of the draw and when they met in the third week for a place in the grand final it was the Panthers who prevailed, 10-6. Then they got revenge over Souths in the decider.
That preliminary final was an absorbing contest that included Melbourne losing two key forwards for good early on - prop Christian Welch after eight minutes due to concussion and the then starting hooker Smith to a shoulder injury after 15.
Taking into account those injury setbacks, the Storm were at least as good as the Panthers that day.
Both teams lost important players to other clubs at the end of last season, but so too did the only team that finished near them on the table - the Rabbitohs.
The Melbourne and Penrith line-ups and systems remain so good that they're still at the top of the tree - Storm first, but each on 16 points.
Penrith are performing very strongly again this season, but while they might be playing as well as they did last season they're not playing any better. Melbourne are playing better than last season.
The Panthers are premiership favourites with the bookmakers, narrowly ahead of the Storm, and are warm favourites for Saturday's game. The Storm have injured centre Reimis Smith out as well as Papenhuyzen.
It would be great if both teams were at full strength for this clash. It might not be definitive if the Panthers win with Papenhuyzen out. It would likely say much more if the Storm won without him, which is still a possibility only a fool would rule out.
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