The notion of the Melbourne Storm losing consecutive matches is a weird one. For Craig Bellamy, it is heart attack material.
Even the master coach can manage to stomach the odd unexpected loss, particularly when his exceptionally talented team has an off week during the representative season or when they feel the pressures of unavailability due to injury.
However, following an 11-10 loss to the Sea Eagles at AAMI Park, Bellamy’s men did the business against Anthony Seibold’s Broncos on Friday night, dumping Brisbane from the eight while temporarily moving three games clear at the top of the NRL ladder.
The Broncos came into the match with seven wins and a draw from their last 11 and many believed that the tide had turned for at least one team from the Sunshine state.
Bellamy’s men slapped the home side across the face instantly and awoke them to the harsh reality that they are still well off the pace when it comes to being a realistic premiership contender in 2019.
Despite the home side starting well, the Storm’s three first-half tries and a Cameron Smith penalty goal sent them to the sheds with an 18-0 lead.
The silent Suncorp crowd eerily expressed fans’ fears for the second half and those fears were confirmed after the break, as the Storm stayed in the groove and ground the Broncos into the dust.
An early second-half try to Jahrome Hughes and a subsequent penalty goal to Smith sent the Storm out to a 26-0 lead with 30 minutes still on the clock.
What followed was a little embarrassing for the Broncos, with Kenny Bromwich’s second try and Smith’s 61st minute four-pointer stretching the Melbourne lead to 36, with the home side yet to open their account.
There was more to come and the final 40-4 scoreline will be an utter embarrassment to a Brisbane side that appeared to be gathering momentum in recent weeks.
Questions must be raised around Seibold’s effectiveness. After a period of calm as he implemented his systems and structures into the Broncos culture, things appeared to have turned for the better.
However, Craig Bellamy’s men have now exposed that illusion and called into question both the current performance and future direction of the Brisbane Broncos under Seibold’s leadership.
In early Friday night action, the Raiders put the Warriors to the sword at Mt Smart Stadium and effectively killed the home side’s chances of featuring in semi-final action.
Two clear facts emerged from the game. Firstly, Ricky Stuart has a team ready for a serious tilt at the premiership in 2019, and secondly, Stephen Kearney can no longer remain as the coach of the Warriors.
After 68 games at the helm and a winning rate of just 42 per cent, the 47-year-old has failed to reinvigorate the Warriors since he took over in 2017, nor mould them into the force that they should be.
Despite a mountain of huffing and puffing and a host of breathing exercises that look fantastic on the rare occasion that the Warriors put their foot to the floor, Kearney is obviously not the answer to the never-ending riddle that is the New Zealand Warriors.
Stuart’s ever-impressive outfit produced an eight-try-to-two demolition that ended in 46-12. The result lifted the Green Machine to second place on the NRL ladder – at least temporarily – and left the home side three points outside the eight and languishing in 12th position.
Unlocking the secret to a consistent and competitive Warriors side might be the most challenging gig in the NRL, however it is becoming increasingly clear that Kearney is not the man for the job. Finding the person capable of reversing the club’s fortunes must be the No.1 item on the board’s agenda.
Whether they have the courage to make the toughest of calls and seek out a new coach is anyone’s guess.
At the other end of the ladder, though, there is no doubt at all about the premiership credentials of the Storm.
They are ready, willing, able and hungry. Good luck to their challengers, they will need it.