Storm winger Steve Turner has paid tribute to his Melbourne club coach Craig Bellamy for helping him recover from the wreckage of his New South Wales State of Origin debut.
Turner made his maiden appearance for the Blues in the second game of this year’sÂ Origin series, which Queensland won 30-0 at Suncorp Stadium.
One of the shortest wingers in the NRL, Turner came away from the Origin series a burned man.
Turner’s Melbourne teammate Greg Inglis was in rampant form, shredding the Blues defence and his clubmate’s confidence in the process. Turner admits he was demoralised after the game, seeking refuge on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast with the permission of Storm and NSW coach Bellamy.
“It did hit me,” Turner said. “I was a bit down. I obviously made my debut and it wasn’t the greatest of debuts. “Coming back from that I really learnt a lot. Craig has helped me through it. I think I came back and wanted to be determined to play some good football.
“Obviously I would have loved to have a dream debut. In the Origin game before, (Anthony) Quinn got his debut and scored a couple of tries.
“It is a tough place, Suncorp. I got away after the game and went to the Sunny Coast for three or four days and had time away from football. It really helped me.”
So did Bellamy. The Storm coach has been under fire for his criticism of the judiciary in recent days, but Turner has nothing but praise for the Melbourne mentor.
“He said stay positive and keep working on your footy,” Turner said. “It is great to have him here and help me out in that regard because I couldn’t get my head down and worry about that. I had to get my focus for the Storm. Everyone wants to play for their state and country and get a win and have a great game. It wasn’t to be.
“I think the thing that helped me was being able to get away. I was fortunate enough that we had the bye that weekend. Getting away for four days from football and not having to do anything in football, and just relax and think about other things, was good.”
Inglis was also understanding. The Storm star had a night to remember in Origin II, not only tormenting Turner but also NSW centre Mark Gasnier. It was a performance that reinforced Inglis’s standing as one of the game’s great players.
“He was cool with it when we got to training,” Turner, 23, said. “He’s a pretty laidback sort of customer. He was on fire. He just showed what he can do and what a talent he is.
“It’s no wonder he has been voted by his peers the best in the game. That was my first time playing against team-mates.”
Turner’s mental strength in the wake of his Origin debut should come as no surprise because he has endured his share of dramas throughout his career.
An ankle injury stymied his early progress at Penrith before he was the subject of a bitter tug-of-war between Gold Coast, who claimed he had agreed to a deal with the Titans, and Melbourne.
Gold Coast eventually allowed him to stay in Melbourne.
“With that (the ankle injury) and the Gold Coast stuff, it’s made me a tougher person – having to deal with ups and downs of rugby league,” Turner said.
“You can’t dwell on those things otherwise your football is going to drop and your performances are going to drop. That’s something I knew I couldn’t do because the Storm need 17 committed players. It’s something we have had to focus on as a group since we came back from Origin, put that stuff behind us and focus on the Storm.”
Turner’s form in the finals has been outstanding, the winger arguably Melbourne’s best player in each of the three games.
His displays have reinforced his value to the Storm. Turner is off contract next and if he has his way, he will remain in Melbourne beyond that.
“I can’t believe how quick it’s gone,” he said.
“I got the opportunity to play in my third grand final here. It’s been a wonderful time at the Storm, I have really learnt a lot.”