Melbourne's home advantage no real benefit: Bellamy
Melbourne's home advantage in week three of the NRL finals series isn't as valuable as it seems. That's the message from proud Storm coach Craig Bellamy following his side's 20-18 upset victory over minor premiers Roosters on Friday night.
Making it abundantly clear a preliminary final berth at AAMI Park guarantees the Storm nothing, Bellamy was looking forward to hitting the reset button and to move away from relying ultimately on the benefits of finishing in the top four.
Looking back on past finals in Melbourne Bellamy certainly has a point. Over the past four seasons the Storm have earned four home finals and won just one of them.
Beating the Sea Eagles 40-12 in a preliminary final on their way to winning the premiership in 2012, such scenes have proven to be rare in what has been an otherwise rocky road for the Storm in Melbourne at this point in the season; especially with their past finals defeats at AAMI Park to the Warriors in 2011, Newcastle in 2013 and the Bulldogs last year.
"Everyone enjoys playing at home and we obviously enjoy playing at home too down at AAMI Park but I'm not going to say it's a real advantage for us because at the end of the day the teams left by then will be all top teams and anyone can beat anyone at any time as you saw out there," Bellamy said post-game.
"I just know the next couple of weeks we need to plan it really well and just make sure we don't go into that game thinking AAMI Park is going to win the game for us. We have to start again and make sure we make it happen again.
"That's what we need to do against whoever we play, and if you start taking preliminary finals lightly because you're playing at home well then you're going to get your pants pulled down."
Something Melbourne does have in their favour this time around though is string of exciting young players coming through the ranks.
While he wouldn't call it a rebuilding year as such, Bellamy alluded to the development of players like Kurt Mann, Tim Glasby, Nelson Asofa-Solomona and none more so than star fullback Cameron Munster as key – particularly in light of Billy Slater's season-ending shoulder injury.
"We have a lot of young players in our team who are new to the NRL and obviously when Billy went down it was obviously a major blow to us and we all thought that. But Munster's done really well for us and besides that everyone else has lifted," Bellamy said.
"We have been a little bit inconsistent at times but you usually get that with a younger team. The past month or five weeks they have really got a bit of grit about them in defence and this time of year it's definitely what you need."
Of the game, Storm captain Cameron Smith was buoyed with how the Storm were able to stick to their game plan to put the Roosters' 12-game winning streak to bed.
"We built a lot of opportunities for ourselves but we also turned over a lot of cheap footy to the Roosters as well – particularly in the first half. We didn't really ask too many questions in their own 20-metre zone," Smith said.
"It's an area we need to look at it. It's been an issue for the most part of the year. So being able to execute our game plan for the entire 80 minutes rather than looking for easy options to score cheap points was most pleasing."