While they may miss out on a third successive NRL minor premiership, Melbourne skipper Cameron Smith says he’s proud the Storm locked in a top-two spot heading into the finals after a testing season.
An undermanned Storm outfit, already missing Billy Slater and losing halves Cameron Munster and Brodie Croft on game day, couldn’t hold out a hungry Penrith in their final-round clash at AAMI Park.
The 22-16 loss meant the Sydney Roosters can now snatch the JJ Giltinan Shield if they beat Parramatta by 27 points or more in their Saturday night match.
Smith said while they were disappointed not to secure the minor premiership with a win, he felt they could be proud of their achievements.
“If you look at the way our season’s panned out, it’s quite a remarkable effort,” Smith said.
“To be playing for the minor premiership with the teams we’ve fielded throughout the season.
“We’ve had three different halfbacks, we haven’t had Jesse (Bromwich) or Dale Finucane for two months of the season and Billy’s missed a fair bit of football with his hamstring so I think it’s a pretty good effort.”
The Storm also faced concerns they would lose coach Craig Bellamy who was targetted by the Broncos.
Bellamy said it still hurt to lose to the Panthers even with key players missing from the line-up.
“Not having a full strength team doesn’t soften the blow at all to be honest,” Bellamy said.
“But Cameron’s right about the sort of year it’s been – if someone at the start of the year said this is what’s going to happen through the season and you’ll finish second you’d think that’s a good effort.”
Munster and Croft (both knee injuries) are set to play in week one while Bellamy wasn’t sure on when Slater would return from North Queensland after he rushed there to be with a sick family member.
Winger Suliasi Vunivalu (hamstring) is an outside chance while giant prop Nelson Asofa-Solomona is still a few weeks away.
Prop Tim Glasby will have to pass concussion tests after he failed to play in the second half after a head knock.