Nail-biting wins vital for Storm: Bellamy
The Melbourne Storm's unbeaten start to the season may have come in a way that was a little too close for comfort, but coach Craig Bellamy knows every win at this stage of the season is a vital one.
The Storm have opened their 2014 account with consecutive one-point wins, both courtesy of a go-ahead drop goal in the final minute.
They will host the Newcastle Knights next Monday night, the same side that ended their season in the same venue last September.
Bellamy is pleased his side will enter the semi-final rematch undefeated, albeit by the skin of their teeth.
"The wins have had every on the edge of their seats, biting their fingernails… it is a really tight way to start the season," said Bellamy.
"The really pleasing thing is we won both games, so to come out on top after the games have been so close… It's always nice to have early wins on the board, particularly in our situation."
That situation is one Melbourne are forced to confront every season since the 'Big Three' era began.
That trio of Cameron Smith, Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk, as well as Ryan Hoffman, will all be called upon for Origin duty in the middle part of the year.
Although the Storm have a bye in the weeks leading up to Origins I and III, they face the likely prospect of heading into their Round 16 clash against the Dragons without their four stars, and possibly others.
The busy middle part of the season has made the club's unblemished start to 2014 all the more important.
"We always have a tough period going through Origin with our key position players carrying a huge workload," said Bellamy.
"These wins early are certainly really valuable for us."
Neither of their thrilling wins have been perfect performances from the Victorian side, outplayed and forced to defend for extended periods during each game.
The premiership coach is all too aware of his side's lapses in the past fortnight.
"There are quite a few areas of improvement we need to work on both as a team and individuals," said Bellamy.
"We really need to improve on just being a little bit more consistent in those periods where we seem a little bit flat."
A real positive for Melbourne this year has been the solid performances of its younger brigade.
The side that took to the field last Saturday against the Panthers included Kenny Bromwich, Ben Hampton, Tohu Harris, Young Tonumaipea, Jordan McLean and Mahe Fonua – all players aged 22 or younger.
Their ability to stand up and perform under pressure has been a really pleasing factor of the season thus far for the Storm coaching staff.
"I have been really happy, really proud (of them)," Bellamy said.
"In different stages when we've gone through bad patches they've continued to turn up and do their jobs in the clutch moments."
"There is still plenty of room for improvement for those guys, they know that and they know it not because the coaches or senior players are telling them, they know that themselves."