Storm 'mindful' of success

The Melbourne Storm's quest for excellence has extended into sports psychology this year. 

‌Coach Craig Bellamy and football director Frank Ponissi decided to bring in two external consultants to work with players and coaches to provide support. It's new to the Storm, but it has paid dividends.

"Every year we're looking to where we can find an edge to be better in previous years," Ponissi said. "We make fun of our study trips, but we do – we go with a focus on a specific area, and last year we looked at sports psychology. It's an area we haven't dabbled in at all. 

"It's something we've been looking at for years. We first saw it on our first trip with the All Blacks way back in 2010. They've got a particular person on staff, and we were quite impressed."

Not all players use sports psychology, but two keen adopters are Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk. Hugh van Cuylenburg, director of The Resilience Project who has worked with the Storm, says they've benefited from the practice.

"Billy was one of the first people to start practicing," he said. 

"He got injured soon after we did a talk at the club. He started practicing gratitude and to pay attention to what he had, rather what he hadn’t."

Van Cuylenburg also said a small act of kindness was incredibly beneficial for Slater, who has continued to practice gratitude.

"During a game day one time, Billy went for a run because he wasn’t playing. He saw some homeless people on the street and bought breakfast for them. He said he was still buzzing a month afterward."

Halfback Cooper Cronk is also big on mindfulness and used it regularly during the 2016 finals series.

"Cooper reached out to me during the finals last year," van Cuylenburg said. 

"He said 'I want to do some extra stuff during the finals, is that OK?' So I sent him a message each day about gratitude.

"It's mainly about their wellbeing. It does encourage their ability to make good decisions during a game, and in the big moments."