Melbourne Storm coach Craig Bellamy has broken his silence over the club’s white-powder saga, saying his players were well aware of their actions.
Co-captain Jesse Bromwich says Melbourne are set to find another gear in their NRL preliminary final against Penrith after Brandon Smith was cleared to play.
In what should sound alarm bells for rivals Penrith, Bromwich says Melbourne are primed to find another gear in their NRL preliminary final after Brandon Smith was cleared of serious injury.
Defending champions the Storm have arguably improved in 2021 despite the absence of retired skipper Cameron Smith.
They enjoyed a record-equalling run of 19 straight wins on their way to registering the greatest for and against record in NRL history, piling on 40 points or more in a game 12 times this year including a 40-12 qualifying final rout of Manly.
Yet Bromwich believes the portents are good for Melbourne to raise the bar again in Saturday’s grand final qualifier against the Panthers after inspirational rake Smith’s fitness fears were dismissed during the week.
Scans cleared Smith of facial fractures after he came off with a head knock early against Manly.
“That was gut-wrenching for the team. I didn’t want to see him have the great year that he had had and maybe miss out at the end through injury,” Bromwich said of Smith’s qualifying final injury.
“But it has given us a boost having him back.
“He’s a bit of a character, gets along with everyone, annoys everyone too.
“He is a spark plug we like to have in the middle.”
Despite the departure of 430-game legend Cameron Smith this year, the Melbourne juggernaut has kept rolling along.
They will appear in their seventh straight preliminary final and are vying for a fifth grand final in six years.
Still, Bromwich is convinced the Storm can improve with a full-strength, in-form line-up finally at their disposal.
Flyer Josh Addo-Carr is set to return from a hamstring niggle, bolstering a backline that has fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen firing again following a concussion layoff and playmaker Cameron Munster back to his best after overcoming a knee infection.
Asked if Melbourne still had extra gears, Bromwich said: “Yeah. It will be nice to field a full team next game.
“I think we haven’t been able to do that for a long time.
“I know a lot of clubs are carrying injuries but to be able to name your full-strength side in a preliminary final is great.
“I am looking forward to seeing what we can do. Hopefully, we give it a shake in the prelim.”
Centre Reimis Smith was convinced Melbourne’s best was still to come.
“I think so. Paps is back, we’ve got Munster in the halves with Jahrome Hughes, there’s Brandon Smith – what else can you ask for?” he beamed.
“Everyone is starting to click now at the right time of the season. It’s perfect timing really.”