Bellamy blast gets Storm campaign on track
It wasn't quite "adapt or die" but Craig Bellamy's early-season message to his Melbourne players was just as blunt about the absence of Cameron Smith.
Halfback Jahrome Hughes said that after a faltering start to the year to open their premiership defence, the coach gave his Storm troops a few home truths about life after the retirement of their long-time captain.
They realised a need to evolve to a new Storm without Smith calling the shots, with their biggest test looming on Friday night against Manly at Sunshine Coast Stadium in the first match of the NRL finals.
"It was different at the beginning of the year, just not having him around in the team or around the club," Hughes told AAP.
"There was a bit of talk early that we were missing him and Craig gave us a bit of a spray about relying on him when he wasn't there.
"I think we've done a great job since then not relying on him and we've got used to it now and we've got to be able to do that in the finals."
Harry Grant has shared the hooking duties with Brandon Smith since the elder Smith's retirement with the pair working in tandem a key to the Storm's strong attack.
The pair have proven a handful for any defence with their charges out of dummy-half, with Grant bringing pace and Smith power.
Despite only starting in three of 12 games, 23-year-old Grant has scored five tries while Smith, still only 25, has clocked an incredible 12 from his 22 games this season.
Grant said the Storm really started to click when the team changed the way they played to suit the strengths of he and Brandon, rather the new hookers change.
"Even though we've learned a lot off him over the years we still do play different," Grant told AAP.
"We kind of had to change the way the squad plays a little bit to suit myself and Brandon because it's a massive change for the side and not only on the footy field but off field as well.
"There's probably no one more to honour than Cam Smith but Bellsa (Bellamy) has been great in terms of just letting me and Brandon try and play the way we play and not be Cameron Smith but bring our own game to the team."
Smith was at the Storm's helm for 42 finals, bowing out after last year's title decider.
Grant said they now felt well-equipped to successfully defend that crown.
"There's a lot of people - not only me and Brandon - but a lot of the leaders and the coaches that stepped up to assist in filling that gap," Grant said.