Melbourne Storm are world club champions
Storm hold on to slender lead for most of second-half to win the World Club Challenge in Leeds. Photo: AFP
LEEDS: As the World Club Challenge looks set to return to Australia and expand, victorious Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy on Friday night admitted some NRL premiers still do not take the concept seriously.
Bellamy was speaking after the Storm held off Leeds 18-14 at Headingley, making them the first Australian club to win a WCC decider three times, although the 2010 title was subsequently stripped for salary cap abuse.
The coach said he favoured playing next year's WCC in Melbourne if the Storm qualified but his comments about the attitudes of other NRL clubs cast doubt over plans to involve six teams in Britain at the start of 2015.
''It's well known that some clubs don't take this seriously but we're not going to come all this way to take it easy,'' said Bellamy, whose side secured victory with two quick tries after half-time.
''This is an important game to us and we've always seen it as important. You have to win a competition to play in one of these games. We take great pride in representing the NRL.''
A WCC working group has agreed to play next year's match in Australia, although the NRL still has to approve the idea.
''I don't know what the mentality is and who makes those decisions,'' Bellamy said.
''But, at the end of the day, I'm pretty sure that if it was well marketed in Melbourne, we'd get a really good crowd at AAMI Park if we get a chance to play it again.''
If Friday night's was the final stand-alone World Club Challenge in Britain for the time being after 13 years of that arrangement, then it gave fans a fine spectacle.
Converted tries to Melbourne fullback Billy Slater (20th minute) and Leeds winger Ryan Hall (26th) and a couple of penalty goals made it 8-8 at half-time before the Storm made their big play.
Taking a hit-up 20 metres out, prop Jesse Bromwich beat four defenders on a bumping, stepping run to the line.
Almost from the resumption, Melbourne put on a 50-metre movement which finished in 21-year-old debutant Tohu Harris scoring. Harris's father, Paul, had flown 31 hours from Napier in New Zealand for the game.
''He's very proud of his son. He actually presented Tohu with his jumper last night,'' Bellamy said. ''It was very heartfelt, we were very moved by it and I'm sure it helped Tohu play well.''
Melbourne had tries to Mahe Fonua (forward pass) and Gareth Widdop (double movement) disallowed in the final 10 minutes but, according to Golden Boot winner Kevin Sinfield, their goalline defence won it for them.
The Storm's squad included 11 members of the side which beat Canterbury in last year's NRL grand final.