Melbourne NRL coach Craig Bellamy says criticism of his team’s ruck tactics by North Queensland coach Paul Green is a ploy to gain an advantage in their qualifying final.
On the eve of their playoff at AAMI Park, Green said the ruck interpretation from referees Ben Cummins and Grant Atkins was his biggest concern in Saturday night’s showdown at AAMI Park.
The Storm have long been accused of using wrestling tactics to slow down the ruck so they can set their defence and Green says he wants his team to be afforded the same latitude.
But Bellamy said Green had no issue with their ruck play in their two meetings this season and the Cowboys’ coach raised the matter as a “predictable” way to get a benefit from the whistleblowers.
The Storm mentor said the officials had had no issue with Melbourne’s actions throughout the season.
“Paul came into the press conference and made a statement; it was a very pre-conceived message from him which is all very predictable at this time of year,” Bellamy said.
“We haven’t changed anything in five or six weeks (since we last played them); we haven’t changed anything in 24 weeks so he’s just trying to get an advantage there from the referees.
“But I’m sure the referee is just going to go out there and do their job.”
Bellamy questioned whether Green’s comments were acceptable given the NRL rules that coaches weren’t allowed to criticise referees in media conferences.
“That sounds like criticism to me,” he said.
Their last meeting at AAMI Park was last year’s preliminary final, which the Cowboys won convincingly en route to their maiden NRL title.
Bellamy admitted the loss had been a turning point for the Storm and made him reassess the team and their game plan.
“There were things we got out of that game we saw we had to change and improve.
“It was a circumstance you come across in your career when you realise you have got to change and that was a nudge to say the line we were travelling on needed to change.”
With so many new faces in the Storm line-up, he said the team didn’t carry any scars from the preliminary final loss, or take too much out of their two wins this season over North Queensland.
“Last year was hugely disappointing but that doesn’t come into our reckoning this week,” he said.
Bellamy hinted there might be some late changes, which could include hulking prop Nelson Asofa- Solomona who missed their last-round regular-season clash through suspension.