IT WILL be the talking point of grand final week, but Melbourne Storm coach Craig Bellamy insists that there is no place for any reference to the club's recent history.
Melbourne's only NRL club was stripped of its 2007 and 2009 premierships after it was busted for long-term salary cap cheating, but Bellamy said after this team dismantled Manly 40-12 in last night's preliminary final at AAMI Park that hard work and not redemption had got it to where it was. It is a stance that he has maintained all year.
''What happened in 2010 … means a little bit to these guys who were here for all those years, but at the end of the day it's a whole new team so they're not burdened with what happened in 2010, so why do we want to burden them with it ?'' Bellamy said. ''We don't have to make up for that. We just have to do what we do well, the 2012 team. We don't mention that because it's not [relevant] for a lot of people still in our team.''
Captain Cameron Smith agreed, saying he was not surprised that the team had managed to again make a grand final so quickly.
''We were there last year [preliminary final loss against New Zealand Warriors] and there was only one reason, this club is about working hard and we've done that ever since I've turned up at the joint and ever since he [Bellamy] came that's all we've ever done is work hard,'' Smith said. ''We put ourselves in the same position last year and fell one game short. I think it speaks volumes of not only all the players and coaches but all the staff as well. We always want to excel and get the best out of ourselves, so I'm very pleased to be back here again.''
Bellamy said the team's turnaround in form, after possibly the most self-questioning period of his career following a mid-season slump that included five consecutive losses, had earned it its shot at the premiership.
''We had a bit of a flat spot after origin, but we started the season really well and the guys did really well to kick back after the five losses in a row. And while the belief was tested there at stages, we never lost the belief that we could come back and I think the two performances in the finals series have been two of the better performances of the year,'' Bellamy said.
''I certainly questioned myself with what I was doing with the team. Was I playing my role as well as I could? You are always asking yourself more questions when you go through a period like that, but at the end of the day we knew that if we kept working hard we'll come out of it.
''I think we've handled this year a lot better than we did last year at the end of the season. We've learnt some lessons from last year and most of those were from decisions I made which weren't great decisions - in terms of workload and when we rested players - so we're finishing the season a lot stronger.''