Cronk shows his worth as Storm overcome Eels

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    Melbourne Storm were runaway minor premiers, so where's their reward? (AAP Image/Julian Smith)

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    We saw a great finals series match again on Saturday, with Melbourne pushed so hard by a Parramatta team that refused to be intimidated.

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    Some of the closeness of the score could be attributed to uncharacteristic errors from the Storm, the sort that they almost never made during the regular season.

    As always, anything less than perfect from the Melbourne players had the cameras panning to the coaches box looking for Craig Bellamy and his reaction.

    Parramatta’s players deserved more of the credit though, it was true high pressurised finals football that led to the wayward passes and dropped balls.

    It was an interesting picture of the Melbourne changing rooms at half time. Bellamy was probably more restrained than many would expect. And the most telling point was who spoke next, and at length.

    Cooper Cronk even stood up for much of what he had to say, rising from his chair to the right hand of Craig Bellamy.

    It’s part of the excitement of the NRL finals to imagine Bellamy stripping paint off the walls in the wake of that match, setting up the cones in the car park already for the extra training he’ll be putting on.

    Melbourne Storm coach Craig Bellamy

    Craig Bellamy (AAP Image/Paul Miller)

    Looking ahead to next year and beyond though, the most telling image is that of Cronk in that changing room, absolutely laying out the plan for the second half to his teammates.

    Just as on the field it seems to be Cronk who is the chess master, the one who barks out reminds the others of exactly what the coach expects at that moment, the plays and patterns, and more importantly the precision, that make Melbourne that little bit different.

    Smith and Slater would be massive parts of each and every one of the plays as they are practised and then put into action, but when players are gasping for breath and simply making it back into the line it seems to be Cronk who is reminding them of exactly what it is that Bellamy expects at that moment.

    Finally, Cameron Munster is extraordinarily talented.

    So is Michael Morgan at the Cowboys. But it takes time to become an absolute equivalent of John Thurston, and it will take just as long to emulate Cronk, who really does take Craig Bellamy’s thoughts to the field.

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