PLENTY of verbal barbs have been fired from both Melbourne and Cronulla ahead of their preliminary final and coaches Craig Bellamy and Shane Flanagan have been at the very centre.
The stage has been set for a fiery encounter, with Bellamy all but accusing the Sharks of having their own dirty tactics.
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Bellamy lit the fuse on Thursday morning — less than 36 hours before the AAMI Park clash — when he sarcastically called out the “holier-than-thou” and “squeaky-clean Sharks”.
Prompted by Flanagan’s remarks this week that his team had stood up to the Storm’s “wrestle, push or shove” to hold their record of four wins from their last five against the Storm, Bellamy bit back.
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“Most other clubs in the competition would be sitting back laughing about them calling us grubs,” Bellamy said.
“They’re trying to make out they’re holier-than-thou and they’re the squeaky- clean Sharks.
Well, we all know better than that.”
Flanagan claimed later on Thursday those comments had been taken out of context by Melbourne, but that will do little douse the flames.
No love has been lost between the two sides since Cronulla’s drought-breaking 2016 grand final win, with the Sharks dominating Melbourne since.
But as explained by The Daily Telegraph’s David Riccio on NRL 360, the coaches are actually closer than it seems.
“What’s actually been lost in translation is how close these two clubs are,” Riccio told the show.
“The Sharks will happily admit that since 2015, Shane Flanagan has wanted his club to be as successful as a footy club as the Melbourne Storm.
“Craig Bellamy and Shane Flanagan have beers together at Rainbow Bay every Christmas, they’re mates.
“But what has happened is that the mateship has brought out the rivalry and we’ve seen it through the results: 17-14 it was in Round 22, the Sharks won by four earlier in the year at Shark Park.
“What has happened is styles make style fights and this is the same situation.
“They know each other’s games inside and out and so when the Sharks call the Storm nigglers, the Storm fire back at well because they are very similar.”
Meanwhile, Queensland Origin legend Billy Moore believes shutting down Cameron Munster is the key to stopping the Storm.
Munster has come of age this season and has started to own the big moments such as his clutch field goal in the team’s one-point win over South Sydney in the qualifying final.
“If I can get to (Munster), it’s going to mean Brodie Croft is going to be left looking like a shag on a rock trying to control things,” Moore told NRL 360.
“That may force Billy Slater to do more ball playing, more organising and he doesn’t do what Billy Slater does best then — he can’t be the person that can strike inside and outside and be lethal around the ruck.
“If I can get the Munster, it might upset the rhythm of the Storm.”