After the salary cap saga last year that threatened to de-rail rugby league in Melbourne, Storm coach Craig Bellamy had fears of his own that the club would be killed off as a result of the cap scandal.
Even when it was confirmed that the Storm would stay in the league, many thought that they would go through a true re-building phase, and take some time to find their feet, though they are proving everyone wrong with their strong form.
“I know a lot of people in Melbourne, in AFL circles, who thought the club would go under,” Bellamy said.
“I didn’t think of it until later on. I’d heard people talking about it at the time, it was in a few editorials in the papers down there, and a few of the AFL scribes and people on TV were saying that.
“I think [the club] could have quite easily [folded]. But we had a resolve, especially among the players who have been there as long as I have – or a bit longer – that we’d built something a little bit special and it was worth trying to hang on to.”
For the Storm, there is a clear balance in place with the experienced campaigners in Smith, Slater and Cronk at the helm, mixed with plenty of youngsters that give the Storm one of the NRL’s most balanced sides.
“It doesn’t really matter who’s there running the lines because they are that clinical,” Titans five-eighth Greg Bird said.
“They’re not like St George, who just go through the motions. If you don’t turn up against Melbourne, they can really put points on you. As long as they keep that spine of Cronk, Slater and Smith and are coached by Craig, they’ll be a great side.”
Whilst their depth may not be as strong as other teams now, the Storm’s philosophy has not changed: “The little things are the big things that matter to the Storm”
“Some of the guys new to our team, and the young guys that have come up from our under-20s side a couple of years ago, they’re just starting to really understand the little things that are important to us,” Bellamy said.
“It’s taken them a couple of weeks to understand that, but they’re starting to take it on board.”
The Storm sent a message to the rest of the NRL after they decimated the Titans, and they are looking to continue their strong form.
With young players like Kevin Proctor, Matthew Duffie, Justin O’Neill and Jessie Bromwich, as well as new recruits Adam Woolnough, Beau Champion, Jaiman Lowe and Troy Thompson, it’s all about plying their trade and becoming better players in the NRL with the Storm.
“Defensively, if you’re going to be strong, the opposition team is always going to find it hard to beat you,” Smith said.
“No matter what the situation, no matter what the score is, we need them to have a good attitude to defence.”
For Titans coach John Cartwright, he knows exactly what the Storm are capable of, following their big loss at the hands of the Storm, and he sees Cronk and Smith as their two major weapons.
“They’ve a very smart side,” Cartwright said.
“If physically they get a sniff, they know where to go, they know where to turn up.”