He may be a massive fan of Cowboys maestro Johnathan Thurston but Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy says he’s also blessed with the elite playing talent in his own side.
Ahead of their preliminary final at AAMI Park on Saturday night, Bellamy lauded the competitiveness and freakish ability of North Queensland’s Thurston to turn a game.
“He’s got so many strengths I haven’t got time to list them all,” Bellamy said of the Cowboys skipper.
“The one thing I really admire about him is his competitiveness.
“It doesn’t matter what the circumstances of the game are or what he has to do, he just does it the best he can and he always takes it on himself to lead from the front, especially when they’re in trouble.
“He’s a competitor through and through and I love those types of players.”
But Bellamy has equal admiration for players in his own Storm side, namely Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk.
The Melbourne captain barely trained in the lead-up to their qualifying final win over the minor premier Sydney Roosters because of illness but rose from his bed to lead the side with a starring performance.
Bellamy, who hasn’t missed a finals series since becoming Storm coach in 2003 (with the exception of the 2010 salary cap scandal), said he was continually surprised by what Smith could conjure up.
“I often think of how blessed I’ve been,” Bellamy said.
He said Smith pressured the Roosters attack on their last set which meant they could deliver the winning play they were after.
“They bombed it and he was the one who came out putting pressure on them and if he hadn’t (Jackson) Hastings may have put it where he wanted it,” Bellamy said.
“They’re the things that you expect of him because he keeps doing it but it still amazes you how he keeps doing it.
“You’re just still in awe of what he can do … his want and desire to keep going is quite amazing.”
Bellamy said halfback Cooper Cronk was in the same class and despite being in his 12th season in Melbourne, still impressed with his professionalism and enthusiasm.
“Cooper’s excitement levels and enthusiasm levels around the place for a guy who’s done what he’s done and has done it for so long; he’s a guy who would come up with a play like Smith.”