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21 hours ago
If Melbourne Storm is to recover from what was an abysmal effort in the grand final, the club needs to be brutally honest in assessing every facet of the match from player performance to match tactics to off-field preparation.
As the final score of 40-0 would suggest, the Storm failed miserably in all areas and to pinpoint what contributed most to the shellacking is not an easy task, however in this instance I believe the coach should shoulder much of the blame.
Craig Bellamy has been labelled as a mentoring magician up there with the likes of the late Jack Gibson and Wayne Bennett, yet in this year's Origin series with the Storm coach at the helm for New South Wales, the Blues were seemingly clueless in Games I and II, much the same as Melbourne were in its grand final losses to Manly and Brisbane (2006) - premiership deciders which never reached any great heights largely because of the dull playing style implemented by Bellamy.
Bellamy's overall winning percentage may be impressive, but in major events (three grand finals, three Origins, one World Club Challenge) it is a meagre 28.6 per cent. Not a statistic you would normally associate with someone lauded as the "chosen one" who would bring an end to Queensland's domination in Origin.
For goodness sake, he left arguably the game's most dangerous attacking weapon, Brett Stewart, languishing on the bench for an hour or so when the Blues were desperate for points. Go figure!
There are little if any excuses for Bellamy's low success rate in major matches. Over the past three years he has had a near full compliment of players to choose from with the club enjoying a charmed run with injuries. It left him with a roster brimming with Australian and New Zealand internationals and Origin players. Even when a representative player was struck down with injury such as with Ryan Hoffman this year, Bellamy had replacements of the calibre of Adam Blair, Jeremy Smith, Antonio Kaufusi and Sika Manu to cover the loss. You could mount an argument for any of the four to be a better option than Hoffman, which underlines Melbourne's incredible depth.
When you measure a coach's ability you first need to look at the players at his disposal, the extent of the injuries that the club's suffers and when during the season they occur and the same with players suspended by the judiciary. The latter obviously impacted heavily this year on the Storm, with the loss of inspirational captain Cameron Smith, not that his presence would have in any way reversed the result. It may have reduced the margin but unless Smith was prepared to totally ignore his coach's instructions and play a more expansive game, Melbourne still would have been thumped.
It beggars belief why Bellamy would adopt such an unimaginative game plan when he had such attacking weapons as Billy Slater, Israel Folau, Greg Inglis, Steve Turner and Cooper Cronk in his side. The Storm rarely asked questions of the defence, other then the high ball which Manly handled with aplomb.
Next year will really test Bellamy's mettle as a coach given the departure of Israel Folau, Michael Crocker, Jeremey Smith and Antonio Kaufusi. The Storm will come back to the field, but by how far is anyone guess?
I tend to think the club is in real danger of missing the eight and if Bellamy persists with his restrictive coaching style, then that will only hasten the Storm's fall from grace.
He needs to admit he was wrong in keeping Inglis in the number six and whip him back out into the centres and he needs to dispense with the "kick-happy" tactics inside the opposition's territory. Why not create some uncertainty in the defence by running a few plays instead? Can't hurt