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4 days ago
Melbourne Storm skipper Cameron Smith has warned the reigning NRL premiers have a renewed focus now that Craig Bellamy has committed his future to the club.
The Storm travel to Canberra Stadium to face the Raiders on Monday night in their first outing since Bellamy re-signed as coach until 2013, ending speculation of a move to Brisbane.
Smith expects the news to have the same calming affect on the team as it did on his teammate Israel Folau after the teenage centre ended speculation on his future by signing with the Broncos from next season.
"I think it shows with Israel and obviously his future was up in the air and as soon as he decided what he was doing he's played certainly very well for us over the last two weeks," Smith said.
"I think the sort of speculation about Craig leaving, now that he's staying it's just going to help the team and now all that sort of stuff's over we can just concentrate on our games.
"All the talk has been about coaches swapping and players going and now we just want to concentrate on playing."
With his future now settled, Bellamy will get a chance to reflect on the past on Monday night, against the club he played for from 1982-92 and at the place where he served his coaching apprenticeship.
The Raiders, pre-season wooden spoon favourites, have surprised this season by winning three of their opening five games and Bellamy knows better than most how tough a task a win in the nation's capital will be.
"Canberra's always tough in Canberra, I played 10 years down there so I know how determined they are to guard their home ground, so that ain't going to change on Monday night," Bellamy said.
"We know that it's going to be a great challenge for us.
"We've played really well the last two weeks and we need to make sure that we continue to do those things at Canberra on Monday night."
Both sides are coming off wins, but the Storm in particular were ultra-impressive in thrashing Manly in a re-match of last year's competition decider.
After rare back-to-back losses in rounds two and three, Melbourne are starting to resemble the side that convincingly took out the title.
Raiders captain Alan Tongue said his side would not need to look far for motivation against the Storm.
"These are the games that you live for," Tongue said.
"There's an excitement about this game... I know the boys are looking forward to the match.
"Melbourne in the last couple of weeks have shown their quality."