Fire in the 'Belly' for Storm coach
Despite falling one game short of last year's grand final, Melbourne Storm skipper Cameron Smith believes his side still has room for improvement.
Melbourne finished the regular season in fourth, toppling minor premiers the Roosters in week one of the finals, before falling to eventual premiers the Cowboys in the penultimate game of the season.
The Storm enjoyed strong wins against fellow top-four teams the Roosters, Broncos and Cowboys, but also suffered surprise defeats to bottom-four sides in the Tigers and Knights.
"As far as looking forward to this season, we want to do better than what we did last year. We felt we were fairly inconsistent even though we finished top four," Smith said.
"We did relatively well against the top teams and not so well against the teams that were below us on the ladder, so that was an area we identified after the year that we needed to fix for the season."
One constant that has defined the Storm has been their coach Craig Bellamy, who has been at the helm since taking over in 2003.
Currently undecided on his future beyond 2016, Bellamy's re-signing would be a major boost for a side seeking its first premiership since 2012.
"I really have no idea. I have a feeling Craig will stay on. It doesn't feel like he's on his last legs," the 2007 Golden Boot winner said.
"He turns up every day with a purpose to try and improve the team and improve all the coaching staff around him. I have a feeling he'll stay on for another two years hopefully."
Bellamy has been one of the most successful coaches of the modern era, but Smith admits his boss has been underwhelmed by what the club has perceived as missed opportunities.
"I think probably over the last couple of years, I feel that he's been a little bit disappointed with the way our seasons have panned out," said Smith regarding his coach.
"There have been times throughout the last couple of years where he's actually sort of said to us that he wishes he did a little bit more.
"I think, like the players, we've tasted the success of being there on grand final day, and I'm sure he'd like to be there once again. We're all chasing a premiership, and it's no different for the coaches."
Bellamy has long been regarded as one of the most prolific forward-thinkers in the game, and his tactical nous could be invaluable with new rule changes set to be employed in 2016.
Smith says a rigorous pre-season has his side in a good position to cope with the reduction in interchanges, and is confident his mentor will be able to develop the game plan to take advantage of Melbourne's supreme fitness.
"He's great. He's an innovator. Everyone knows that. He likes to stay ahead of the game.
"There have been a couple of new ones [rule changes] introduced this year, so he's always looking to find new ways to play the game and stay ahead of the pack."