THERE were two disallowed tries about which he could have complained loudly, but Melbourne Storm captain Cameron Smith instead applied the blowtorch to himself and his charges.
The Storm’s premiership defence is hanging by a thread after their 20-10 qualifying final loss to South Sydney at ANZ Stadium on Friday. The world champions’ cause wasn’t helped by would-be tries to winger Sisa Waqa (32 minutes) and fullback Billy Slater (64) being chalked off by the video referees.
And Waqa was hospitalised with injuries to discs in his back after a spectacular aerial collision with opposite number Dylan Farrell late in the match.
“We need to make a decision, as a team, where we want to go now for the rest of this season,’ said disconsolate hooker Smith.
“It’s really in our hands, what we want to do with it. We’ve got three games to go – or three possible games – but we’ve got to turn it around quick from that performance tonight.
“To me, it just comes back to individuals and how much importance they place on the ball when they’ve got it in their hands.
“For some reason, it’s been a trend for us at the back end of the year. We can’t hold onto the footy, we invite the opposition down to our own end and we’re putting pressure on ourselves.
“It’s frustrating, it’s really frustrating. I can’t remember the last time we scored first. It wouldn’t have been many times out of the last dozen matches.
“To get on that tryline in the first 10 minutes and talk to the boys, it’s just the same old thing.”
It was a stark assessment for a team which has dominated the NRL for long periods over the last decade.
Coach Craig Bellamy added: “Our mental toughness, I’ve got no doubt we’ve got enough of that. It’s whether we’ve got the respect for the footy at the start of games. That’s the question.
“That’s been a real disappointing part of our game. I think we completed one of our first five tonight, or two of our first six – some ridiculous amount.”
The Waqa try was disallowed because of inconclusive video evidence after on-field referee Shayne Hayne said ‘no try’, while Will Chambers was found to have stopped Souths’ Nathan Merritt catching Cooper Cronk’s bomb when Slater claimed what would have been his second four-pointer.
“The first one … it was probably a fair ruling in that there wasn’t any conclusive evidence to overturn the referee’s decision,” said Bellamy.
“Som times I don’t think the referee can get a real good view of it either, so why should you make a decision on no try, or try, if you don’t really see it?
“Shane might have seen something there but five (camera) angles couldn’t tell.
“The other try was a real tough call against us, to be quite honest. He said Will took Merritt out. At the same time (Bryson) Goodwin was escorting Will, who knocked him off balance. Will didn’t have a proper shot at the ball because of the escort.”
Smith said Slater claim was “a fair try … I thought it was a fair contest”.
Bellamy said that while Farrell meant no harm in the collision with Waqa, “he tackled him early, before he had the ball. Sisa was going up, he knocked him off balance before he even had the ball.
“That’s the reason why it was so ugly.”
On the use of five-eighth Gareth Widdop, in what was his first game back from a dislocated hip, Bellamy explained: “Finchy (Brett Finch, shoulder and sternum) wasn’t fit to play.
“It’s a bit more serious than what they first thought.”
While Widdop was somewhat tentative on Friday, he is expected to benefit from the run when Melbourne plays Canterbury or Newcastle on Saturday night at AAMI Park.
Filed for: THE AGE