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Talking Tactics: Making winning a habit

Talking Tactics: Making winning a habit
Mental strength and a great club culture are the traits that have enabled Melbourne to carve out a record 14-game winning streak in the NRL. Credit: NRL Photos Copyright: NRL Photos
Matthew Parish is an assistant coach at the Parramatta Eels and also the New South Wales Blues.

You have to hand it to Craig Bellamy and Melbourne, who continued their great start to the season by extending their 2013 winning streak to six games, remaining the only team undefeated after a tenacious victory over the Rabbitohs last Saturday night.

The Storm have now put together an ultra-impressive winning trot of 14 in a row – if you also take into account last season’s charge to and through the grand final. It’s a tremendous effort in any professional sport to do this but given the team’s pre-season trip to England for their World Cup Challenge victory, as well as two NRL semi-finals and a grand final win in there as well, it’s a truly magnificent achievement. 

The feat puts a focus on the club’s great stability and great culture. To achieve this sort of run your team needs to be strong mentally and have a culture that ensures you keep working hard for one another every week; both at training and on game day and doing the little things very well. These are traits that the Bellamy-coached Storm team exudes year after year.

However, given the evenness of the competition, any team in this Telstra Premiership – not just the Storm – can go from the bottom of the ladder to the top rung very quickly by stringing a few wins together. Who can forget Parramatta’s 2009 charge to the grand final when they were able to muster 10 wins from 11 games to take the team from 14th in the competition to the season decider on the back of some amazing performances and increasing confidence within the team after every win?

So just how do you turn a return-to-form or bounce-back win into a sequence of four or five victories in a row?

There’s no question there has to be consistency and discipline in your pre-match preparation at training to give your team the very best chance of winning every week in such a tight competition. The way that your team adopts and carries out team attacking and defensive tactics will have a massive influence on carving out a win.

Willingness to work hard for one another in defence, the kick chase and other off-the-ball areas such as support and decoy runs are what most teams use to measure their enthusiasm and gauge how much energy the team has. These key indicators are what the coaching staff use to gauge the attitude within the team.

With each win, momentum builds and belief in the group grows; what becomes evident in the team is that no matter what the situation you find yourself in during a game, you have the confidence and self-belief to find a way to win and get another two competition points.

Of course, teams go through losing streaks as well – and it’s tough! The Storm went through one last season after the deciding State of Origin clash, losing five games in a row before turning it all around. 

It’s important during these tough periods to place trust in what you believe in and to stick to the fundamental beliefs you have worked on since the pre-season. 

Equally important is that as a group you stay tight and accept responsibility for the losses together, and believe that by working hard together you will jag that much-needed victory.

There is a saying that is so, so true: “Winning is a habit – but unfortunately so is losing.” 
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