Bellamy’s Storm reigns over Queensland
CRAIG Bellamy's constant search for an "edge", and his unrelenting desire to get better every day, every session, has propelled Melbourne Storm to an unrivalled finals record that outstrips an entire rugby league heartland.
Storm will on Friday play a 10th preliminary final since Bellamy took over as coach in 2003, a 10th since 2006 in fact, and Melbourne's 26 finals victories with the master coach in charge is just three less than all three Queensland teams combined in the same period.
The Brisbane Broncos lame exit from the finals in week one left the sunshine state without a team to cheer for, other than the Melbourne side often referred to Queensland's fourth NRL team.
Storm's State of Origin production line has produced 12 Maroons since Bellamy started.
"They always manage to get to the pointy end of the season, and know how to win those big games," retired North Queensland legend and future immortal Johnathan Thurston told the about his Melbourne envy.
Thurston has tipped Storm to go all the way this year and secure back-to-back premierships.
Making the grand final would be Melbourne's third trip to the decider in as many years, and, believe it or not an eighth under Bellamy.
Storm has been a near unstoppable juggernaut since the former Broncos assistant coach branched out on his own and became, arguably, the greatest coach in Australia.
Every single NRL club, including the Broncos, has thrown bucketloads of cash to get him, including this year before he re-signed.
Bellamy keeps winning with hundreds of different players, regenerating them again and again.
He's turned kids in to superstars, journeymen in to wanted men and good players in to immortals.
Storm made the finals in Bellamy's first year as coach and all bar one since.
No other NRL team has made finals in 15 of the past 16 seasons.
Only the Sydney Swans in the AFL can match that recent record.
Melbourne's only miss was 2010 - the season of the salary cap scandal, in which Bellamy's men were forced to play for no points but still won 14 games, enough to finish fifth.
The playing list was dismantled as a result of the scandal, but still Storm came again, making the preliminary final the next year and tasting untainted premiership glory in 2012.
Only seven of the 17 players that won the competition in 2009, a title stripped from the club, were part of the 2012 triumph.
That's 10 new premiership players, produced in just three years, including five from Storm's Under-20s.
Since the scandal in 2010 player turnover has been as high in Melbourne as anywhere, but there have been five more preliminary final appearances, grand finals in 2016 and 17, and the premiership last year.
From the first of Storm's seven grand final appearances under Bellamy in 2006 through to last year, 57 different players have worn purple in the decider, and 46 have become premiership players.
Dallas Johnson, who played for Queensland and Australia after the playing first of 157 Storm games in 2003, pointed to consistency, hard work, and Bellamy's relentless pursuit of both as the recipe to such a staggering period of success.
"Bellyache would have to be the most consistent force in the club," Johnson said.
"He loves consistency, and you are always trying to better yourself, that's the culture that has been ingrained in Melbourne, all on the back of Bellyache.
"He is always looking for the edge, and always has. That goes for his players, too.
"You can never sit on your laurels. If you are not trying to be better, you might as well get out.
"You go down there now and I guarantee you Cameron Smith, probably the best player to ever play the game, and Billy Slater, the best fullback to ever play, those guys will be doing something after every training session trying to better themselves."
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