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Storm's NRL title defence looking solid

By Todd Balym 05/10/2009 07:03:08 PM Comments (0)

Plans for Melbourne's NRL title defence will start on Tuesday with coach Craig Bellamy's confidence boosted by the fact the Storm will have the lowest turnover of players since the purple reign began four years ago.

Bellamy will lose only two of his 2009 premiership winning players - Steve Turner (Bulldogs) and Will Chambers (rugby union) - and possibly assistant coach Michael Maguire to Wigan.

But unlike the three previous seasons, Bellamy has significant replacements ready to step into the team with NSW winger Anthony Quinn and Kiwi internationals Sika Manu and Chase Stanley available next season.

Quinn (neck) and Manu (leg) missed the premiership win with season-ending injuries, while 20-year-old utility Stanley is set to join Melbourne from minor premiers St George Illawarra.

In 2006 and 2007 Bellamy lost three players from his grand final sides, while last year he was decimated by the loss of six stars.

Bellamy said the relatively small turnover in 2009 was a good sign for continued success in 2010.

"We will be a bit more settled side next year," said Bellamy on Monday.

"Obviously Steve Turner is a huge loss and Will Chambers going to rugby union.

"We lose a couple of other guys too but I think they're the only two we're losing from the grand final team last night.

"I wouldn't say we have to work harder, we have to work a bit smarter at times.

"I'm learning as a I go as well and hopefully I can work a bit smarter next year as well.

"Hopefully we can kick off the season on a good note next year."

Melbourne's 23-16 grand final win over Parramatta silenced the critics who'd suggested the Storm's dynasty would come to an end on the back of their high turnover of representative players.

But prop Brett White said the death-riding had only increased the motivation for the players to win their second premiership in three seasons.

"It was the end of the dynasty two years ago wasn't it?" said White on Monday.

"Everyone wrote it, you wrote it again last year and we're still going along.

"Being in Melbourne it is everyone versus us and we use that to help us.

"It has worked for us the last couple of years and we will use it again.

"We will still work hard in the offseason and we'll keep working hard for each other and wait and see what happens next year."

Halfback Cooper Cronk said he was confident the Storm would remain a force next year.

The players gathered for a private meeting on ANZ Stadium hours after their grand final win and spoke about savouring the winning feeling as inspiration for working hard again in 2010.

"(We were) thinking about the possibilities that can arise if you're willing to do the hard work and have the right attitude under the system," said Cronk.

"It doesn't matter if you've won 10 straight or won a couple, it is how much you desire and are willing to be successful.

"It's not rocking up day one preseason and saying I'm looking forward to winning the comp this season, it's about doing the little things in between that.

"I'm confident in the capabilities of my teammates and everything we have got in place here."

Meanwhile Bellamy said the club would be hunting a return to the minor premiership race in 2010 after their streak of three straight JJ Giltinan Shields was broken when they finished fourth to St George Illawarra this season.

"We will start next year and if we're a chance to win the minor premiership we will be going flat out for it," said Bellamy.

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