Storm cruise into third straight decider - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Storm cruise into third straight decider

26/09/2008 11:51:06 PM Comments (0)

Melbourne advanced to a third straight NRL grand final but it wasn't enough to satisfy coach Craig Bellamy, who launched a scathing attack on the game's administration over the handling of Cameron Smith's grapple tackle suspension.

The Storm crushed Cronulla 28-0 to book an October 5 meeting with the winner of Saturday night's Manly-Warriors preliminary final, a game Smith will play no part in after he was rubbed out of the finals by the NRL judiciary on Wednesday night.

"I don't think Cameron Smith got a fair go," Bellamy said.

"Cameron Smith, 10 minutes after the game last week, was hung out to dry.

"The press conference ... got hijacked by some of you guys in the media that had him hung out to dry straight away and then it continued for four or five days.

"There's some sections of the media that seem to have an agenda against Melbourne and certainly the grapple tackle.

"It's my player that misses out on a grand final opportunity and I think he's been hard done by here."

Bellamy went further when he questioned the integrity of some NRL officials as he flirted with a link between the judiciary and the setting up of a market by bookmakers on the probability of Smith being suspended.

The NSW Origin coach later backed down from his inflammatory comments but refused to let go of his claim that Smith had not been given a fair go.

"The other thing that was very smelly about the whole lot was when I saw in the paper on Wednesday morning and there's a betting market - $1.18 he's going to be found guilty, $4.25 he'll be found innocent.

"That's a fair spread in a two horse race.

"Bookmakers and betting agencies, they don't guess, they've got good information - take that as you may.

"As soon as I saw that on Wednesday morning ... he was thousands."

Bellamy was accompanied to the post-match press conference by club chief executive Brian Waldron, who unloaded on the role Cronulla coach Ricky Stuart had played in the Smith saga.

Stuart supported the NRL match review committee's decision to charge Smith for his tackle on Brisbane forward Sam Thaiday, Waldron adamant the Sharks coach's words influenced those behind the guilty finding.

"Opposition coaches, opposition officials, other officials in positions of responsibility of the game should not be commenting before the judiciary," Waldron said.

"It doesn't happen in other sports ... it questions the integrity of our game at the core and we need some leadership to fix it.

"To allow Ricky Stuart to make those comments is an absolute disgrace and a blight on the game and we need to address that."

Stuart defended his right to an opinion as he returned serve on the outspoken Storm chief executive.

"Brian Waldron is a flip," fired Stuart.

"Wally Waldron should go and learn the rules before he starts complaining about me making comment. I was the opposition coach, of course I was going to make comment.

"If it happened again next week I would say the same thing. The more that flip goes on about it the stronger I will be about it.

"It's a shame for the game, but the game, me, didn't make the tackle and tell that idiot Waldron the same thing. We didn't do this.

"When he learns the rules he is going to probably be a better asset to Melbourne. Until then he is just a nobody."

The NRL's chief operating officer Graham Annesley was present during the press conference but declined to comment on Bellamy's remarks.

The post-match blow up took the gloss off a gutsy Storm performance, with stand-in skipper Cooper Cronk leading the way in a sublime display that more than compensated for the absent Smith.

Stuart admitted his side were simply outclassed and panicked after conceding their second try in by the 24th minute before going to the break 16-0 down.

"We were never in the hunt," said Stuart.

"We started off really well and after they scored that second try I felt us all of a sudden panic and tried to score of every set of six.

"That's not our game plan, we have to be patient.

"It all went out the window."

The Storm could be in for another week of judiciary drama, though, with Cronk penalised for a lifting tackle on Brett Kimmorley and prop Brett White put on report for the use of an elbow on Sharks opposite Ben Ross.

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