Proctor: From cheeky kid to leader
Melbourne Storm milestone man Kevin Proctor is grateful his side aimed up in his 150th NRL game, while his skipper paid tribute to the growing leadership of a man who arrived at the club as a "cheeky kid".
The New Zealand born 26-year-old was signed by the club as a 15-year-old, came through their NYC system and made his debut in 2008, still just 19 but already sporting his trademark 'Sideshow Bob' hairstyle.
On Monday he played his 150th game for the club. Having played just three times off the bench for three losses in his debut year, then seven more in 2009, Proctor hasn't played fewer than 22 games for the club in a season since (and hasn't started from the bench in more than two years).
"It's an honour. I've been really grateful to play 150 games at such a great club like the Melbourne Storm and hopefully a few more to come," Proctor told NRL.com after his side put in a clinical 30-2 disposal of top-eight rivals Cronulla at Remondis Stadium on Monday night.
"It was awesome for the boys to get up for the 150, all the boys played really well. I'm really happy with the performance, probably one of our most complete performances of the year.
"It's a pretty tight-knit group; when someone has a milestone, everyone gets up and tries to play for their mates, it was good the boys got up for it."
His skipper Cameron Smith – who himself brought up his 300th NRL game at the club this year to much fanfare – agreed the club puts a healthy emphasis on milestones.
"It's an important part of that individual's career so if it's important to him it's important to his teammates. We don't like letting those guys down when they're celebrating those milestones," Smith said.
"It was nice for Kevvy to get a win tonight, it's a nice memory for him to have. He's had a bit of a rollercoaster type of career with us. He was a pretty cheeky little fella when he came to our club but over the last three or four years he's really developed into a leader at our club.
"All the young guys that come into our system look up to Kevvy and they work quite closely with him at training to improve their games. He's a very important and valuable part of our organisation and we're extremely pleased that he got a good result tonight."
Proctor said he did feel like more of a leader these days, especially given some of the young players coming into the side.
"I feel pretty old actually now because we've got such a young group of guys coming though," he said.
"It's been an awesome journey, I've had some really good times here. I've had some ups and some downs too but more ups – I'm really grateful for my time at the Melbourne Storm."
Proctor felt like it was his duty now to try and impart some of that experience to the younger up-and-coming players.
"We've got such a young pack and such a young group of guys coming through. That was our goal for the year, to step up as leaders and take that leadership role on, we are getting a little bit older now so we're trying to get that culture into the younger guys and build a future for the younger guys coming through the Storm system," he said.
"All the young guys like Christian Welch and Cameron Munster, they're all good young guys and like to take on the advice that we give them and we try and build that culture with them at the start and hopefully they carry it on too."
Of the strong defensive effort that saw his side keep Cronulla tryless while racking up five of their own on Monday night, Proctor said defence had been the buzzword all week at training after last week trailing the Titans at half-time.
"We were practising our defence all week because we struggled with our start last week against the Titans. We wanted to start well and finish well. We started well which set the tone for the rest of the game," he said.
"We were hammering that all week. They've got some class players there [at Cronulla], we wanted to shut down [Wade] Graham and the inside balls, their back five are all really dangerous so we wanted to try and slow down their momentum on the kick chases and really stop their attack."
ek for us so hopefully if he is out he's not out for too long."
Flanagan also wasn't sure what Barba's immediate prognosis was.
"He's having an ultrasound now, hopefully it's not too bad but we won't know until tomorrow [Tuesday]," Flanagan said.
Flanagan also revealed Barba's reduced minutes in recent weeks were partly a result of an ongoing knee injury.
"Benny's got a bit of a bung knee, it's not just me playing him from the bench and giving him a bit of impact, he's struggled with a bit of a knee injury for a fair period," the Cronulla coach said.
"The injury he's got tonight is nothing to do with his knee but we're managing him through that and it's getting closer to being 100 per cent and he's done a really good job off the bench the last couple of weeks."