The Penrith Panthers confused Melbourne Storm in the qualifying finals, leaving the losing coach to a tough admission.
Melbourne Storm coach Craig Bellamy said his team “got what they deserved” in a preliminary final defeat to the Penrith Panthers.
Melbourne was supposed to take a week-long break and almost do everything in its power to cruise past the Panthers, who have been criticized for lacking a sense of unity with the ball for the past few weeks.
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But both left the script at home — Penrith rediscovered the Mojo, and Melbourne performed a featureless sloppy performance.
As a sign of the future, Storm lost Brandon Mychal and Christian Welch early and could not break through the Panthers defensive wall without the two most damaging middle forwards.
Ryan Papenhuyzen’s second half attempt returned Storm to the contest, but with a 69% completion rate and 16 errors in the name, Melburnians simply got out of the game.
Bellamy said he was “disappointed” with the performance as much as the loss.
“We got what we deserve tonight,” he said.
“We dropped some really good opportunities and dropped the ball. The Panthers actually scrambled a couple of times to save a couple of trials.
“We couldn’t have the entire heap for us, but in the end we got what we deserved and the Panthers got what they deserved.”
Bellamy has a special aim at the Storm attack. Storm averaged 34 points per game in this year’s regular season, but was scoreless until the first three-quarters of Saturday’s Grand Final qualifying.
“It’s really hard to take. In the attack, it was one of the poorest performances of the year and probably the poorest. I was disappointed,” he said.
“We trained well during the week. I didn’t see it coming.”
Bellamy is still proud of his side, given that he lost captain Cameron Smith this year and was able to maintain his heavyweight position despite spending most of the last two seasons away from Melbourne. He said he was thinking.
“It’s not very critical tonight. Obviously disappointing, what they’ve been doing for two years … won the Premiership last year and the Minor Premiership last year,” he said.
“Once again, I’m very disappointed with tonight’s performance, but I’m not very critical of their experience over the last few years and the football they’ve played.”
This game was the last of the Storm season and the last game of Dale Finnukeen, Nicho Hynes and Josh Addo-Cha in the Melbourne jersey.
Co-captains Finnukeen and Hines, who enjoyed the breakout season in 2021, both headed to Cronulla, while Addker signed a deal with Bulldog as part of the club’s spending.