Cooper Cronk rarely makes the wrong option with the ball. Picture: Phil Hillyard
Cooper Cronk rarely makes the wrong option with the ball. Picture: Phil Hillyard

Bellamy admits coaching against Cronk in GF would be strange

MELBOURNE coach Craig Bellamy admits it would be a weird feeling coming up against Cooper Cronk in next Sunday's NRL grand final if the Sydney Roosters get through.

The Storm cemented their spot in their third straight decider with Friday night's 22-6 preliminary final win over Cronulla, booking their eighth grand final appearance since 2006 with the win.

Cronk has been the halfback who has engineered the Storm to each of the past seven, and last year's title success threatened to be his last game in the NRL before he signed with the Roosters in the off-season.

But after playing 323 games for the Storm since his debut in 2004, Cronk would be on the opposite side of the field next Sunday if the Roosters beat South Sydney on Saturday night.

"It would be a strange feeling, I would imagine," Bellamy said.

"We played them in Adelaide and it was a strange feeling coaching against him and I imagine for these guys playing against him.

"This time last year he was in a grand final for us. So it will feel a little strange but we'll need to put that in the background for 80 minutes next week."

Even if the Rabbitohs are to beat the Roosters, the Storm would face a noted former teammate in Greg Inglis during next week's decider.

Neither have tasted much success against Bellamy's men since leaving Melbourne, with Cronk's Roosters beaten by one point in their only meeting this year and Inglis having won just once in nine attempts.

"Playing against Greg Inglis, he's still remembered for what he did at this club," Bellamy said.

"He provided a whole heap of things for our club when he was here. It will be a little bit strange playing against either of them."

Melbourne's road to this year's decider has been far different to previous ones, having also lost key forwards Tohu Harris and Jordan McLean at the end of last year.

But they stand poised to be the first team to win back-to-back titles in a unified competition in 25 years if they are triumphant at ANZ Stadium.

"I know how many grand finals we've been to in the last bit. But it's hard to make a grand final now," Bellamy said.

"So if it's harder to make it, it's harder to win it. I think that would be more the point.

"This club and our group the last three years has changed each year to get to grand finals.

"But it's getting harder and harder and I think we saw that by the competition this year with the minor premier won it on for-and-against with three other teams at the same point."