By STEVE MASCORD
MELBOURNE Storm’s premiership defence ended with a startling admission from coach Craig Bellamy that his side lacked finals hunger.
Down 18-4 to Newcastle with 33 minutes left in the second preliminary semi-final, Cameron Smith’s men charged back but fell just short in a pulsating clash before 19,649 fans. It marked the end of the careers of representative stars Jason Ryles and Brett Finch.
“A lot of you guys, especially, have said we didn’t have the September buzz, for want of a better word,” Bellamy, who also led his side a world club championship at the start of the year, told reporters.
“And I think you are right. We just didn’t have .. whether it’s the want, desire, the reason to believe, I’m not quite sure.
“But the last couple of weeks we just didn’t have that something that you need in September.
“While the guys fought really hard in the last two weeks, we got behind in both games by 14 points and fought hard. There are positives there but we certainly contributed to our demise.”
Exhausted captain Cameron Smith said the defeat would give him many sleepless nights. “It’s hard in this competition to go all the way every year,” he said.
“Taking out 2010, this is our worst result since 2005. This is the first year we haven’t made a prelim (final) and haven’t made a grand final. That gets lost in the result tonight but that’s a fair achievement for an organisation to do that.
“We just weren’t good enough tonight and we weren’t good enough this year.
“The most disappointing thing is not that we’re out of the competition, but the way we’ve gone out.
“We had a team there capable of doing something this year but we didn’t play good enough when it mattered.
“I’m not thinking about next year yet. I’ll probably have a couple of sleepless nights over the next week, pondering what could have been this year.”
Asked if he was disappointing to hear his coach say the side lacked hunger, captain Cameron Smith said: “Yes and no.
“Yes because we don’t want to be that type of football side. We certainly don’t train to be that type of team but it’s sort of been happening that way in the back half of the year where we’ve struggled early in games and given opposition teams head start.”
Asked whether he felt the Storm lacked the required buzz, he said: “Not really. Not with our preparation.
“With our performances over the past few weeks, maybe. Particularly the last two weeks. You need to play your football with a lot of energy and intensity – especially this time of year – and that was a concern for us.”
Bellamy said his charges “got a bit frantic when we got within two”.
“If you take the last two weeks out of it, it’s been a really good year for us,” said Bellamy.
“We went over to England and won the World Club Challenge, then we started off with six or seven wins in a row. We had a couple of rough patches, we came through those rough patches pretty good and found a way to come third in the minor premiership.
“I think our draw this year, how it worked out, we travelled a lot early to hot places and we had short turnarounds and whatever.
“It was a really tough draw this year but the guys come through it really well. We had a couple of downs as you’d expect but we just didn’t seem.”
Winger Sisa Waqa is in doubt for the World Cup with a grade two medial ligament tear.
Filed for: SUNDAY AGE