William Botoulas, Melbourne Correspondent
A total buy in from the entire playing group is what it has taken for the Storm to overturn what was a lacklustre first 18 weeks of the season.
Patchy, inconsistent form coupled with a worrisome defence would’ve had coach Craig Bellamy tearing his hair out at certain points.
Less than a month ago Melbourne sat in 10th spot on the NRL ladder with just two wins from six games and with every chance of missing the finals.
What a difference three weeks can make.
The Storm will arrive at Hunter Stadium on Saturday looking to make it four-straight wins.
With just points differential between them and a top four spot, the Victorian side’s late season surge has forced many experts to label them as a bona fide premiership chance.
Melbourne named an unchanged side for the fourth straight week on Tuesday, but forward Jordan McLean was ruled out with a hamstring injury on Friday afternoon, with his replacement to be named an hour before kick-off on Saturday.
It is a testament to the consistency those 17 players have shown. Earlier this season that word ‘consistency’ was a clear source of frustration around the walls of AAMI Park.
The at times maligned defence has now restricted its opposition to single digits in three of the past four weeks, a feat they failed to do even once in the first 15 games.
It may have taken a while for them to come around but Melbourne’s head coach says it has taken the total commitment to the cause from his players for the side to turn its season around.
“All the players in the team realise what their role is and they are doing it well, I think that has been the big turnaround in the past month,” said Bellamy.
“There was some technique and position we had to improve but we had to work on that.
“I think what has happened is that everyone has accepted their role in defence… perhaps their attitude wasn’t there 100% but in the last three or four weeks I’d say that has been a big difference.”
When the master coach was quizzed as to why only now has it started to click for his side, he seemed as baffled as anyone else.
“That is a good question, I am not quite sure,” said Bellamy.
“Sometimes you can take a long time thinking about it and you still don’t find the answer.
“We are just taking it that we are going OK at the moment… we just need to keep working hard at it and if everyone keeps that attitude of doing their job in defence it will work well for us.”
A short turnaround between back-to-back away games has seen the Storm stay in NSW on a three-day training camp in Terrigal.
After three-straight defeats following Monday night games this season, Melbourne will be out to overturn that run against a Knights team who will welcome back some much needed quality.
Jarrod Mullen, Kade Snowden and Akuila Uate have been named for a Newcastle side looking to overturn an embarrassing 50-10 thumping at the hand of the Rabbitohs last week.
With just one game separating them from the dreaded wooden spoon this game is as vital for the hosts as it is for their visitors.
But this Melbourne machine is purring along nicely and will take some stopping when the two teams lock horns at 5.30pm on Saturday.