Bellamy promises clear Storm despite Cronk fallout
Melbourne Storm coach Craig Bellamy insists his side won't be distracted before their grand final rematch against the Cronulla Sharks, having processed the emotional fallout of Cooper Cronk's shock announcement to move to Sydney at season's end.
Cronk's declaration to leave the Storm sent tremors through the rugby league world, and after 15 years in Melbourne, many of his teammates and coaches were stunned by his decision.
"It was a bit of shock, [that] was the first emotion. Then it was disappointment and there were a few different emotions," Bellamy said.
"Since then the boys have had enough time to decipher what's happened. We can't control anything else. We can only control our footy."
"We need to get on with our footy, that's what we're going to do and that's what 'Coops' (Cronk) would want."
While there's understandably disappointment at the ending of a vaunted career at the Storm, Cronk's teammates are rallying behind him and his personal motivations to be with his fiancée Tara Rushton in Sydney.
"Everyone's right behind Coops in his decision," Bellamy said. "There's no one here that isn't behind Coops' decision. They understand that's where he's at and what he wants to."
It sets up a farewell tour for the club legend, with a potential fairy tale premiership ending adding as motivation for the side. However, they are focussed on this week's assignment against the reigning premiers.
The Storm put their perfect 5-0 record on the line against the Sharks who have slowly staggered out of the blocks with a 3-2 start. Although they were far from their best in a narrow 19-18 win over the Newcastle Knights last week, Bellamy is expecting them to rise to the occasion at AAMI Park where Cronulla are yet to taste victory.
"They're probably not at the level they were this time last year - they would've been disappointed with how they played last week," Bellamy said.
"They're a talented team and a very competitive team. That's what gave them success last year."
While they remain the NRL's only unbeaten team, Melbourne continue to seek perfection and will look for improvement on their error-riddled performances to date.
The side will wait on the strength and conditioning tests of Christian Welch and Jordan McLean who will have until Saturday to prove their fitness.
Otherwise, Bellamy trusts last week's debutants – Mark Nicholls and Tui Kamikamica – to replicate their efforts if needed this week.
"We couldn't ask for any more than what we got from those guys," Bellamy said. "We know if Jordan and 'Welchie' (Welch) don't come up, we know those guys will step up."