Melbourne Storm’s victory over Wests Tigers on Saturday was pretty straightforward, but also revealed how the club has dealt with this most unusual of NRL seasons.
The Storm have been based on the Sunshine Coast for months now due to the coronavirus pandemic, but have still maintained their standards and wrapped up second spot on the ladder.
They’re so consistent in everything they do. Whatever their pillars are for success, they follow them to a tee — from the top, all the way down to the cleaners.
They’ve been in the top two every season for the last five and only missed the top four once in the last 10 seasons. It’s unbelievable, really.
A big part of the reason for that is they’ve got Cameron Smith — who’s been around forever and is a cool calm head on the field — as well as Craig Bellamy, who is the same off it.
This weekend we saw the light side to the Storm, which just shows the relationships they’ve got within that squad.
You often think of Bellamy blowing up in the coaching box about something he was unhappy about on the field.
However, him flicking the bird at Cameron Smith shows that they can have a laugh as well.
There are a lot of coaches out there that have that kind of relationship with their players.
Ricky Stewart has it and Wayne Bennett looks like he does as well.
Coaches like that have high standards and expect everyone to play their role, but when it’s time to laugh, they have a laugh and enjoy each other’s company.
For any coach, it’s so important to have a well-balanced relationship with the players.
With the Storm in particular, they’re spending every minute with each other, week after week — so much so that they become your family.
In our game, you need to be able to have those honest relationships and it’s definitely important to know when it’s time to be serious and when it’s time to have a bit of a relax.
At the Storm, it looks like they’ve got that kind of relationship there.
Justin Holbrook gives the Titans everything to play for
Despite sitting in ninth spot and with no chance of playing finals, the Titans still have a lot to play for this weekend.
They have won four in a row now and, although they’re playing finals-bound Newcastle, I still think they can beat them and end their season on a real high note.
To win five games in a row to end the year will give them a whole lot of confidence going into pre-season — especially knowing the players coming in next year to boost their forward pack.
I used to play with Justin Holbrook at Penrith: he was the halfback when I was playing reserve grade.
He really understands football. He’s played the game and has proven himself to be a very smart coach.
He comes across as an open-door-policy kind of guy and I think he puts a lot of trust back into the players.
He ticks all the boxes as a really good coach, which he has shown in his time overseas with St Helens in the Super League and is now doing the same here.
The way the Titans have turned themselves around is really beautiful to watch.
There was a time when you didn’t have much confidence in what they were going to produce on the field, but now they’re playing good football, all their players have got a lot more confidence about them — it’s really good to see.
They’ve improved a lot under Holbrook and they’ll only get better as the years go on.
Avoiding the wooden spoon a powerful incentive
Both Brisbane and the Bulldogs have plenty to play for this weekend.
I’ve had the wooden spoon at Penrith once and I hated it. You just don’t want it against your name.
It’s a motivating factor to know that if you can win the game, you won’t be talked about as the worst team in the competition.
For the Broncos, they’ll be thinking that if they can just put together their best footy for one game against North Queensland, they can get off the bottom of the table and not be the first Broncos team to get the wooden spoon.
The Bulldogs play the Panthers this weekend, but both will turn up this weekend knowing that it’s their last game, so they can leave everything out on the field.
Luke Lewis was speaking to ABC News Digital’s Simon Smale.