Top four not a necessity: Bellamy
Their 30-8 disposal of a disappointing Brisbane Broncos outfit on Friday night will have those teams ahead of the Melbourne Storm looking nervously over their shoulders but Storm coach Craig Bellamy believes his side can make a charge from the bottom half of the top eight.
Having dropped in and out of the top eight over the past month, the Storm's 22-point win not only vaulted them up to sixth on the premiership table but put their points differential onto the positive side of the ledger.
Cooper Cronk had a hand in three tries and scored one himself, Cameron Smith became the greatest point-scoring forward in the game's history and Jesse Bromwich further stamped his credentials as one of the form front-rowers in the competition but it was the precision with which the Storm dismantled the Broncos that will have bookmakers tightening their odds on a Melbourne premiership.
As it stands right now the Storm are level on competition points with fourth-placed South Sydney and although no team has ever won an NRL competition from outside the top four, Bellamy doesn't believe that will be as big a factor in this year's Finals Series.
"If there's ever going to be a team that might be able to do some damage from that bottom half, it might be this year; the competition's that close," Bellamy said.
"I'm not quite sure who's going to finish in the top four but you'd think those three there at the moment are going to be hard to hold out but whoever gets fourth spot... I don't think it's going to make a whole heap of difference to be quite honest.
"We'll all be going hard until the semi-finals and then we'll see where the cards fall then and then go from there. I just think it's that open at the moment and you see the results each week, there's always some big surprises every week so anything could happen."
Although the Storm are a team who have historically fought for minor premierships and not just a place in the top eight, departing forward Ryan Hoffman believes now is the time to make a run and set up a strong finals campaign.
"The season hasn't gone the way we wanted it to to be honest. Over the years we've become used to sitting quite a few points in the eight so it's a different process for us and it's also a different challenge," Hoffman told NRL.com.
"It's really come to a time where we have to start building and performances like tonight are certainly going a long way to securing our spot in the eight.
"The way the season's gone, in previous years we might have left our run too late but the way the competition is at the moment, teams are going to have to start making their run now. We've got six weeks before the finals start and we really need to start distancing ourselves from a few teams."
While halfback Cooper Cronk may have engineered the victory it was yet another record-breaking night for Storm skipper Cameron Smith who with five goals took his career points tally to 1,607, a new premiership record for a forward.
The man he surpassed, Craig Fitzgibbon, may point to the 58 points Smith has scored while playing in the halves over the years in order to hang on to his record for just a little longer but the man himself paid tribute to the teammates who help him achieve such individual honours.
"If I could score a few more tries it would be nice, I would have passed that record a couple of years ago!" Smith joked.
"Individual records or accolades are nice to have but that comes on the back of team success and having the players around you. I wouldn't have had that success if I hadn't been playing at this great club ad obviously having a great coach for a long time and playing alongside some of the champion players that the game will ever see.
"Particularly the guy that I've gone past tonight, Craig Fitzgibbon, I was lucky enough to play alongside 'Fitzy' in the 2008 World Cup and he's a champion bloke. I spent a lot of time with him and learnt a lot from him in that campaign and there's probably not a better bloke to go past than 'Fitzy'."