Storm still in minor premiership race
Melbourne failed to lock up a third consecutive minor premiership after losing to the Panthers on Friday night but Storm's captain and coach are proud they are still in the hunt after huge personnel changes this year.
Cameron Smith has watched as his team has resembled a musical chairs party for most of the season, with key players like Billy Slater, Will Chambers, Jesse Bromwich and Dale Finucane all missing at different stages through injury and suspension.
The halfback spot has been a rotating feast as well as Storm look to settle a new No.7 after the departure of Cooper Cronk after more than a decade's service.
All considered, Smith said it was "remarkable" that Storm were again in contention for the J J Giltinan Shield going into Friday night's final club game against the Panthers. Storm lost a close match 22-16 at AAMI Park.
"Winning the minor premiership would have been really nice, but if you look at the way our season's panned out, it's quite a remarkable effort to be quite honest to have the Melbourne Storm sitting second and playing a game in the last round to wrap up the minor premiership," he said.
"With the squad that we've had this year, and the teams we've fielded through the season: three different halfbacks, we haven't had Jesse for two months of the season, Dale Finucane (for two months), Billy's missed a fair bit of football with his hamstring. I think it's a pretty good effort to be where we are at the moment."
Bellamy echoed his skipper's thoughts, after the Storm wrapped up the 2016 and 2017 minor premierships. They are also the defending NRL premiers.
"There's been some distractions this year, and with all due respect, I think most people in this club have handled it really well, and just got on with what we needed to do," Bellamy said.
The Storm were rocked by the late withdrawal of five-eighth Cameron Munster to a knee injury - Bellamy confirmed his No.6 is set to play next week - and were already missing winger Suliasi Vunivalu, Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Brandon Smith to injury, and the suspended Chambers.
Vunivalu is a chance to play next week, whereas Asofa-Solomona is more of a one-to-two week possibility.
Tim Glasby didn't return after suffering a head knock and will be assessed during the week, although Bellamy said he "looked pretty good" after the game.
Smith said although his side's 22-16 loss was disappointing, the season starts again next week.
"Now we've played our last regular game, we've just got to wipe the season and approach it like it is a new season.
"It's a huge opportunity to get yourself a week off and a prelim [final]. It's a pretty big incentive for us."