Storm skipper praises his team for 'remarkable' season
WHILE his side may miss out on a third successive NRL minor premiership, Melbourne skipper Cameron Smith says he's proud the Storm has locked in a top-two spot in the finals after a testing season.
An undermanned Storm outfit, already missing Billy Slater and losing halves Cameron Munster and Brodie Croft on game day, couldn't hold out a hungry Penrith in their final-round clash at Melbourne's AAMI Park on Friday night.
The 22-16 loss means the Sydney Roosters can snatch the JJ Giltinan Shield if they beat Parramatta by 27 points or more in their Saturday night match.
Smith said while they were disappointed not to secure the minor premiership with a win, he felt they could be proud of their achievements.
"If you look at the way our season's panned out, it's quite a remarkable effort to be playing for the minor premiership with the teams we've fielded throughout the season," he said.
"We've had three different halfbacks, we haven't had Jesse (Bromwich) or Dale Finucane for two months of the season and Billy's missed a fair bit of football with his hamstring, so I think it's a pretty good effort."
The Storm also faced concerns they would lose coach Craig Bellamy, who was targeted by the Broncos.
Bellamy said it still hurt to lose to the Panthers even with key players missing from the line-up.
"Not having a full-strength team doesn't soften the blow at all, to be honest," Bellamy said.
"But Cameron's right about the sort of year it's been - if someone at the start of the year said this is what's going to happen through the season and you'll finish second you'd think that's a good effort."
Munster and Croft (both knee injuries) are set to play in week one. Bellamy wasn't sure when Slater would return from North Queensland after rushing gthere to be with a sick family member.
Winger Suliasi Vunivalu (hamstring) is an outside chance, but giant prop Nelson Asofa-Solomona is still a few weeks away.
Prop Tim Glasby will have to pass concussion tests after failing to play in the second half due to a head knock.