Melbourne is sliding and Phil Gould has a theory.
The rugby league guru has laid out what he believes is the main reason behind the Storm’s fraying win-loss record and leaky defense.
Not only did Craig Bellamy’s men slump to a fourth defeat from seven games in a clash with Cronulla last Thursday night, they’ve conceded more than 30 points two matches in succession.
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The ease with which they’ve dispatched opposition teams time and again in recent seasons is the chief reason for their decline, Gould believes.
“The competition over the last couple of years, the COVID-affected competition and the massive difference between the best teams and the worst teams in this competition, means the likes of Melbourne Storm and Parramatta and South Sydney and these sides get a lot of comfortable wins, where they don’t have to play at their best to do it,” Gould said on Nine’s 100% Footy.
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“They don’t even have to stick to a structure, they seem to be able to score tries at will, there’s nothing really the opposition is throwing at them they don’t know and they get lulled into a false sense of security.”
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Melbourne dropped just four games on its way to winning the 2020 title, before stringing together 19 victories in a row in 2021 to equal the record of the almighty Eastern Suburbs side of 1975.
The Storm also racked up 815 points in their 2021 campaign, which is a number only matched by the Eels of 2001.
“I would say the Melbourne Storm over the last couple of years, unless they were playing a Roosters or a Panthers, it was a completely different game when they were playing the opposition,” Gould added.
“I sometimes think that erodes away at your disciplines and the things that are really important about your team.
“What I don’t see from the Melbourne Storm is the collective across-the-park effort levels and responsibilities of every single player. What I see is it’s working in fits and starts.
“Over the last six months (they’ve) morphed into this team that relies on … Harry Grant has a run and (Brandon) Smith has a run and then (Ryan) Papenhuyzen backs that up and then the ball goes to ( Cameron) Munster and he can do anything, and that’s kind of how they are, which is good enough to beat everybody. But it’s not going to beat the Panthers anymore and they’ve found that out.”
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Despite the Storm’s stumble, they sit third on the ladder after 17 rounds.
The Panthers are three wins clear on top of the ladder in their bid for back-to-back premierships, and the Cowboys, Storm and Sharks round out the top four.
Compounding the Storm’s woes are the injuries of Christian Welch, Xavier Coates, George Jennings, Felise Kaufusi, Kenneath Bromwich, Reimis Smith and several others.
Melbourne is also sweating on the fate of Smith, who’ll face the NRL judiciary on Tuesday night for calling a referee a cheat.
Gould struggles to see Melbourne challenging Penrith for the title this season.
“Unless they now identify what (are) the weaknesses in their game, they are no chance of beating the Panthers … who are just on a roll.”
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