MELBOURNE 16 NORTH QUEENSLAND 20
Storm cloud ... Cowboy Gavin Cooper hits it up. Photo: Getty Images
MELBOURNE Storm coach Craig Bellamy last night said he had seen enough in his team's 20-16 loss to North Queensland to be a little less worried and a little happier about his team's prospect's of turning around a sudden form slide.
But the Storm's injury problems have worsened with winger Matt Duffie set to miss up to six weeks after injuring his shoulder.
Try time ... Brent Tate celebrates his four-pointer with team-mate Ashley Graham. Photo: Getty Images
Bellamy also revealed that star fullback Billy Slater, who has been sidelined since the second State of Origin with a knee injury, might not be ready to play against Parramatta next weekend despite indications last week that had been the game set down for his return.
Dane Nielsen (corked biceps) and Will Chambers (blood disorder) also did not play last night.
Bellamy was furious after the Storm's poor 40-12 loss to Canberra last weekend, where their hallmark defence was torn apart with apparent ease.
The Storm have now lost their past three games, and four of their past five, and cling to top spot on points differential from Canterbury after once having a three-win lead over their nearest rivals.
However, last night Bellamy said he was far happier with his team's attitude which had been missing against the Raiders and he believed that the team had enough time to turn around the results by finals.
''I've been worried for a couple of weeks, to be quite honest, but I'm probably not quite as worried as I was this time last week,'' Bellamy said. ''I thought there were some really good signs out there. We played a really good footy team and we did last week, too, but we gave in without a yelp last week.
''It was a good game of footy and a pretty even game of footy. If there was a bounce of the ball I thought it might have went their way a little bit.
''I thought we were very competitive. I saw some really good improvement in our defence and our attitude to defence so hopefully we've turned the corner but there's still a few things we need to certainly improve on but to me after last week there were a lot of promising signs out there.
''If someone said in January that in round 19 you'd be joint leaders of the competition you would have grabbed it with both hands. The worrying thing at the moment is that we are probably not playing as well as we were early in the season, but some of that benefit of playing well early in the season is holding us in good stead as far as the table goes and we've got another seven games to turn this around.''
Bellamy also said Slater was unlikely to be ready to return for next weekend's game against bottom-placed Parramatta.
Cowboys co-captain Johnathan Thurston said his team, which strengthened its position in the top eight with the win, had been gaining confidence throughout the season.
''It gives us that self-belief that we can match it with the top sides,'' he said. ''Melbourne have been at the top for a number of years now and it's not easy to come down here and get the two points, but in saying that we need to back that up next week.''
NORTH QUEENSLAND 20 (K Linnett 2 B Tate tries J Thurston 4 goals) bt MELBOURNE 16 (M Duffie A Quinn G Widdop tries C Smith 2 goals) at AAMI Park. Referee: Tony Archer, Gavin Morris. Crowd: 10,688.