Storm powered by ad lib NRL play: Flanagan

Melbourne’s new-found ad lib play has made them a tougher proposition than the one that appeared in last year’s NRL decider, according to Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan.

The Storm have the opportunity to avenge their 2016 grand final defeat to Flanagan’s Sharks when they meet North Queensland in the NRL finale on Sunday.

And the premiership-winning mentor believes Craig Bellamy has found a way to sharpen his team’s attacking edge compared to the one that fell just short last season.

“They stay so structured in what they do, but they’ve still got the ability to play to their structure and ad lib,” Flanagan said on Fox Sports’ NRL 360 on Monday.

Statistics back up Flanagan’s observations.

Melbourne’s 633 points in the regular season this year is the most they have scored in the past 12 years under Bellamy’s watch, dating back to the 640 they totalled in 2005.

Throughout their current eight-game winning streak, they are averaging 33 points a game.

Coupled with their trademark defensive ability to strangle teams out of contests, the Storm are winning by more than 22 points per game during the run.

It was only two years ago, when the Storm finished one game short of the grand final, that they scored just 467 points for the year – the lowest mark in Bellamy’s tenure.

The most they have registered in a single Bellamy season is 684 – his second year in 2004.

Flanagan pointed to Curtis Scott’s crucial try in last Friday’s preliminary final win over Brisbane as evidence of Bellamy’s openness to straying from what used to be a rigid game plan.

“That was a tight game leading into halftime and probably one of their youngest players in the side, Curtis Scott gets the ball and on play three, runs,” Flanagan said.

“He has the belief and freedom to get his arms free and pass to Josh Addo-Carr to go and run the length of the field.

“That’s having the belief and freedom within the structure to play what you see.

“Craig’s got a good ability to be really structured but you can play what you see as well within that structure, and that’s the strength of the Storm.”

STORM’S YEARLY ATTACKING RAIDS

2017: 633 total points scored in regular season

2016: 563

2015: 467

2014: 536

2013: 589

..

2005: 640

2004: 684

2003 (Bellamy’s first year): 564

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