NRL coach Craig Bellamy makes surprising call as historic moment looms

Jasper BruceNCA NewsWire
Eastern Suburbs Roosters 1975 premiership-winning team – BACK ROW (left to right): Elwyn Walters, Grant Hedger, Ian Mackay, Ron Coote, Bill Mullins, Arthur Beetson (c), Des O'Reilly, Ian Schubert, Barry Reilly. FRONT ROW: John Rheinberger, John Brass, Kevin Stevens, Bruce Pickett, John Mayes and John Peard.
Camera IconEastern Suburbs Roosters 1975 premiership-winning team – BACK ROW (left to right): Elwyn Walters, Grant Hedger, Ian Mackay, Ron Coote, Bill Mullins, Arthur Beetson (c), Des O'Reilly, Ian Schubert, Barry Reilly. FRONT ROW: John Rheinberger, John Brass, Kevin Stevens, Bruce Pickett, John Mayes and John Peard. Credit: Supplied

The Melbourne Storm has the chance to break the record for the longest winning streak in premiership history when it faces Parramatta this weekend, but coach Craig Bellamy says his side is treating its upcoming match like any other.

With its win over the Titans last weekend, the Storm equalled the 1975 Roosters’ record of 19 straight consecutive victories.

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Bellamy’s men can surpass that legendary side on Saturday but speaking to the media on Friday, the coach said the chance to enter the history books hadn’t been a focus at training this week.

“Obviously last week we were very aware of it as far as the media especially talking about equalling that record and the boys did a great job to do that last week,” he said.

“We’re basically treating this game the same as we have any of the other games. We’re not really looking at that record, we’re just looking to prepare really well this week.”

Bellamy said he held the Roosters of 1975 in high esteem, lauding the side’s “unbelievable players”.

“(The current Storm players), only their grandfathers can remember ‘75. I can remember it pretty well,” he said with a laugh.

“The quality of that team and the quality of the players in that team, they’re greats of our game. We’re talking about Arthur Beetson, Ron Coote, John Peard, Johnny Mayes, Russell Fairfax, John Brass, all those guys were unbelievable players.

“Last week I basically said (that) to our players … We're past that now. This week has just been really a concentration on our preparation for this week.”

Eastern Suburbs Roosters 1975 premiership-winning team members, L-R (back row), Elwyn Walters, Grant Hedger, Ian Mackay, Ron Coote, Bill Mullins, Arthur Beetson (c), Des O'Reilly, Ian Schubert, Barry Reilly, (front row), John Rheinberger, John Brass, Kevin Stevens, Bruce Pickett, John Mayes and John Peard.
Camera IconEastern Suburbs Roosters 1975 premiership-winning team – BACK ROW (left to right): Elwyn Walters, Grant Hedger, Ian Mackay, Ron Coote, Bill Mullins, Arthur Beetson (c), Des O'Reilly, Ian Schubert, Barry Reilly. FRONT ROW: John Rheinberger, John Brass, Kevin Stevens, Bruce Pickett, John Mayes and John Peard. Credit: Supplied

As his side prepares to rewrite history, Bellamy stopped short of declaring the Storm’s 2021 iteration the best of his tenure, but conceded it was difficult to deny that the current crop was more dominant on paper than any of its predecessors.

“I think it’s probably been the most dominant if you just go on results,” he said.

“I think I’d have to say that but usually the question is, ‘Is it the best Storm team that you’ve coached?’ As I’ve said, that’s really hard to quantify. They’re in different eras.”

There’s a case to be made that this year’s Storm enjoys the best roster depth of Bellamy’s reign, as well. Back-up playmaker Nicho Hynes has been in supreme touch this season, while the side’s second-string players ensured the Storm went through the Origin period undefeated, despite losing seven troops to representative duty.

The 2021 side also boasts two elite hookers in Brandon Smith and Harry Grant, and the pair’s one-two punch has caused many a headache through the middle this season.

“With all due respect, we’re probably not going to lose whichever way we go with (Smith and Grant),” Bellamy said.

“They’re tremendous players and tremendous competitors as well. Whatever we do with them, I don’t think we can really go wrong, to be honest.”

Bellamy said he “honestly didn’t see a better dummy-half” than Smith in the period when Grant was injured earlier this year, but believes both men are part of the club’s long-term future.

“We want to hang on to both Harry and Brandon, without a doubt,” he said.

“Brandon, as good as he is a hooker, he’s just as good playing through the ruck. They’re great players.

“We’ll do all we can to keep them both together.”

As he did towards the end of last season, Bellamy said he would consider resting members of his all-star cast next weekend to ensure all are fit and firing come finals. He is yet to nut out the specifics, though.

“We just thought last year that (resting players) was the right thing to do at that time,” Bellamy said.

“We’ll go with what we think is best for the team and best for our individuals. We haven’t really looked at it too closely this week.

“There’ll be some players that won’t want to rest; some players that we did rest last year in that last game thought they lost a bit of momentum leading into the finals.

“I want the players to have an opinion on it. If opinions differ, I’ll probably come over the top then, but I’m not quite sure how many it’s going to be. We’ll do what we think is right next week.”

In the meantime, the Storm is preparing for a Parramatta side that tasted victory for the first time in five weeks last Saturday.

Eels coach Brad Arthur said he was pleased to get the win against the Cowboys, but conceded his team needed to lift its game to a new level to cause an upset against Melbourne.

“While we need to maintain what we did, we certainly need to improve the execution of our plan,” he told reporters on Friday.

“(Facing the Storm) is a good opportunity on the back of last week.

“We enjoy playing the Storm and that’s not us trying to be arrogant … it’s a challenge we enjoy.”

Originally published as NRL coach Craig Bellamy makes surprising call as historic moment looms

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