Craig Bellamy hailed Melbourne Storm’s third minor premiership in the space of four years as their best yet.
Storm romped to a 36-6 victory over Many Sea Eagles at Lottoland on Saturday, with Justin Olam scoring a hat-trick.
The triumph meant they were crowned minor premiers for ending the regular season as table-toppers, an achievement they also managed in 2016 and 2017.
Bellamy, though, believes his side’s consistency makes this success stand out from the rest.
“I reckon this one [minor premiership] is a little more special than the others we have won,” said Bellamy.
“We have only been beaten four times this year and the biggest [losing margin] is four points. That’s pretty consistent and I’m really proud of this group because of that.”
Storm will hope history is on their side going into the finals. In each of the last two seasons, the minor premiers have gone on to win the NRL Grand Final – Sydney Roosters achieving the feat last term after Melbourne in 2017.
A hat-trick for Juzzy pic.twitter.com/9wb7szfiXR
— Melbourne Storm (@storm) August 31, 2019
It was a miserable day for the Sea Eagles, who are battling to remain inside the top four. As well as being outscored six tries to one, they believe full-back Tom Trbojevic will not be able to play again this season after suffering a pectoral injury in the defeat.
“It doesn’t look good for Tom – it looks like it’s a ruptured pec,” coach Des Hasler said of the problem, which was sustained as Trbojevic attempted to tackle Josh Addo-Carr.
“You’d think that kind of injury would be season [ending] given the time we’ve got left. We’ll go through the usual procedures but it’s a ruptured pec.
“Given the time of the year it’s disappointing, he’s such a classy player. It’s been one of those years for him.”
Trbojevic’s team-mate Morgan Boyle (shoulder) could also be out for the rest of the campaign.
There were two other games on Saturday, with the second-placed Roosters easing to a 22-6 win at the SCG that all but ended Penrith Panthers’ hopes of reaching the finals, even without Cooper Cronk.
Viliame Kikau scored early on for the visitors but they did not strike again as four tries from Sydney, including one from Latrell Mitchell – who scored 10 points – settled the contest.
— NRL (@NRL) August 31, 2019
Newcastle Knights thumped Gold Coast Titans 38-4 to keep their faint finals hopes alive under Kristian Woolf, who has replaced Nathan Brown on an interim basis.
The Titans, who are bottom of the table, scored after three minutes through Ryley Jacks but suffered their 10th consecutive loss as they had no answer to the Knights, who ran in seven unanswered tries in impressive fashion.
Despite the win, Newcastle still need to beat Penrith next week and may even be out of contention before that match as they need other results to go their way to stand any chance of progression.