Eight grand finals in 16 years: Bellamy aiming for 50 per cent record

ScottWoodward.me Roar Guru

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    If champion coach Craig Bellamy guides the Melbourne Storm to another grand final spot in 2018, his record will be an amazing 50 per cent – that’s eight grand finals in only 16 years of coaching – a stunning figure.

    Given that the NRL operate under a salary cap that is supposed to make all teams near equal, and there are 15 other teams, a percentage figure of one from two seems almost impossible. In fact Bellamy’s record from 2006 is even better with seven grand finals from the last 12 seasons, or 58 per cent.

    With the Storm winning this year’s grand final over the Cowboys, all the usual parameters were ticked off.

    As minor premiers, the Storm passed the initial test of finishing in the top three teams. The last 22 winning teams, either NRL or AFL, have finished in the top three teams under the current finals system. Since 2016 the AFL have added a week off for all teams which now eliminates them as the advantage of having a week off is not so pronounced.

    The Storm declined to travel to the UK for the Club Challenge which proved astute as no club has travelled back from the UK and won the premiership this century.

    The Storm was defeated by two points in the 2016 grand final by the Sharks and no team has gone back to back since 1992.

    The Storm was the top team for conceding the least amount of points in the season. The top two defensive teams have a 67 per cent chance of making the grand final and a 75 per cent chance of winning it.

    Since Wayne Bennett’s Broncos ambushed Bellamy’s Storm in 2006, defence has improved markedly in the NRL with the top defensive team going on to become the Premiers 58 per cent of the time. If you include the top three defensive teams, it is 83 per cent.

    Craig Bellamy tall

    (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

    If anyone doubts that Craig Bellamy is not the game’s best coach, then even his harshest critic could not argue that he is the game’s greatest defensive coach. It’s the hallmark to his admirable record, and the catalyst why the market expects him to achieve a lifetime 50 per cent grand final record next season.

    We all love to see tries scored, but they are not as important as saving them – that’s a fact!

    The benchmarks I aim for when assessing teams is their ability to score 22 points, but importantly, they must be able to defend 17 points. Bellamy coached teams can generally defend two opposition tries, or 12 points. (The Sharks were able to kick a penalty goal and win the 2016 grand final 12-14).

    I mentioned earlier that the two top defensive teams have a 67 per cent chance of making the grand final; this figure drops by a half to 33 per cent for the top two offensive teams.

    The top two defensive teams have a 75 per cent chance of being Premiers and this drops to 58 per cent for the top two scoring teams.

    The aim for any coach and his recruitment team should be to field 17 players capable of scoring 22 points or four tries, but it is much more important to not allow the opposition to score more than three tries.

    It is defence that wins grand finals.

    The Canberra Raiders were the number three team in 2017 for points scored, but only 10th for points conceded and they ultimately finished 10th.

    Jordan Rapana Canberra Raiders NRL Rugby League 2017

    (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)

    The Panthers were considered a premiership contender, but were rated 16th for the most missed tackles and faded to finish seventh. It is hard to see any improvement given they have just recruited James Maloney who has missed the most tackles in the NRL in the last decade.

    When looking for next year’s premiership winner, the best lead is the best defensive teams led by the best coaches.

    The Storm will play their Club Challenge match in Melbourne so the travel to the UK factor can be dismissed, but they still have to overcome the hoodoo of back-to-back wins that no team has achieved in 25 years.

    Shoosh, don’t tell Craig Bellamy!