Braith Anasta has doubts the Storm can turn around their form slump in time to win the premiership as Cooper Cronk revealed how Craig Bellamy will attempt to turn the tide.
The Storm have a growing casualty ward and are in the midst of a four-game losing streak that has seen them drop out of the top four and with just six rounds remaining time is running out to salvage their title aspirations.
Bellamy admitted after the Storm’s 24-12 loss of the Rabbitohs that he was unsure if his side could turn things around.
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Cronk played most of his career under Bellamy and was surprised by his former long-time coach’s comments, but thinks privately Melbourne believe they can fix the mess they are in, given their proud history.
“I was a little bit shocked by those comments because I actually believe he can turn it around,” Cronk said on NRL 360.
“He said those comments 20 minutes after full-time, but 10 minutes before that he had those blokes in a room and eye-balled every one of them.
“He said some things with finger pointing and then got up and left them to work it our for themselves.
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“A little bit of gamesmanship from Craig, but there is no doubt he has been there and done it before. A few years ago they lost five games and went on to win the premiership so he knows where it needs to be fixed.”
Cronk was on the end of plenty of Bellamy sprays over his career and revealed what the master coach would have said to his players after their fourth straight loss.
“I know exactly what he said because I have been there,” Cronk said.
“He would be saying something along the lines of, if you want to be a Melbourne Storm player you need to be prepared to do the hard work.”
Cronk believes there are two main areas the Storm desperately need to fix to get back to their best football ahead of the finals.
“There are probably two areas that you can pinpoint that they are not doing well,” Cronk said.
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“Errors and that comes down to individual accountability. When you are the one carrying the ball you are the most important person, so take that responsibility and run with it.
“Then defensively some of them are up and some are back. And at the end of the day a defensive system is built on doing exactly the same thing as the person on your inside.
“I think they need to get back to some steady defensive movements and then give themselves the chance to fight.”
However, Anasta doubts the current playing group can draw on past experiences because most of them have never been in a position like this during their Storm careers.
“Throughout their time in the game, the Melbourne Storm have very rarely been in situations like this, so it becomes psychological,” Anasta said.
“They are not used to lose. Even the coach is not used to lose the amount of times he has lost.
“They are not used to being low on confidence. They have always had that belief they are going to hit back next week. But it has happened four weeks in a row. How do they change it? Can they change it?
Cronk pointed to the 2012 premiership season although admittedly not many of the current players were in that team, that overcame five straight losses late in the season to lift the trophy.
“In 2012 they lost five in a row and went on to win the competition,” Cronk said.
“But did they have a better roster in 2012?” Anasta asked.
“Yes they did,” Paul Kent replied.
However, Cronk believes Craig Bellamy’s system remains the same and history shows that it works.
“That is up for grabs, but the system never changed.” Cronk said.
However, Anasta believes that the system is not working like it has in the past.
“The system is not where it was then now,” Anasta said.
“It looks to be not that way.”
Regardless of their form slump, Cronk believes the team only need to look back to the start of the year when they were premiership favorites at one stage, as evidence they have what it takes, even allowing for their injury woes.
“What did they do last year and what have they done this year? They have won games and been dominant so they know how to do it,” Cronk said.
“It is up to the senior players to find that. It is not as if it is something that is foreign to them. You have ridden a bike, you know how to get back on the bike and ride it.
“But they need to drill down to the hard parts. They know it is there. If they find the right answers in terms of their errors and their defense they will get there.”
However, in 2012 the Storm had some of the greatest players ever in Cameron Smith, Billy Slater and Cronk to dig them out of their hole.
Anasta believes the injuries to key players and the lack of experience combined with the poor defense and handling errors may mean a premiership in 2022 is a bridge too far for Bellamy’s side.
“What I worry about is do they have the amount of senior players now that they did have back then to get them back to where they need to be,” Anasta said.