Storm reap rewards of off-season changes
They may have inflicted the premiers' first home loss since mid-August last year, but the Melbourne Storm have taken a valuable lesson from their Round 21 Telstra Premeirship win at 1300SMILES Stadium.
Going into the second half with a 16-8 lead, the team known for their front-running prowess began a step slower on the other side of the break.
North Queensland failed to put any points on the board in that 10-minute span before winger Antonio Winterstein released the pressure with an unforced knock-on, but coach Craig Bellamy noted post-game the lesson about remaining switched on coming out of the sheds.
"We got a bit of a lesson there tonight, that you need to start the second half off hard," Bellamy said.
"You need to get back to what you planned to do and be fully committed to it, and perhaps we weren't quite that in the first 10 minutes of the second half."
As arguably the Telstra Premiership's form team to this point of the season and potentially the most well-rounded they have been in a long time, it is only a matter of mere fine-tuning before September.
Defensively they are back to their dominant best in the ruck despite the game encouraging faster, more up-and-down football, with captain Cameron Smith saying the playing group was challenged in the off-season to rediscover their best form on that side of the ball.
"The last two seasons I think we've fallen away from our standards in defence," he said.
"We've always prided ourselves on our defence… the coaches challenged us last year in our season review to make that better.
"That's been a goal of ours this year and I think Craig [Bellamy] would agree that so far we are achieving that goal.
"It goes a long way to winning matches, there's no doubt about that, so that's part of our game that we need to continue."
In red-zone attack the Storm were fantastic on Saturday, moving the ball from side to side without fear and forcing five goal-line dropouts as the Cowboys desperately fought to repel the purple charge.
"Attacking-wise, over the last couple of years we've tried to change things a little bit," Bellamy said post-game.
"When we've tinkered, sometimes the tinkerings work and a couple of times it hasn't as well.
"But we've probably got a few more passes in our game now and when we've got all our forwards fit we've got a pretty big pack which is hard to handle as well.
"Basically we've changed a bit because of the personnel we have available. You always want to use the strengths of your players, so hopefully we keep doing that."