Craig Bellamy has revealed there was nothing new about Melbourne players wearing Panthers jerseys at training this week, saying the tactic has been used multiple times over the last 10 years. Photos went viral on social media on Tuesday showing half of the Storm squad wearing their opposition's jerseys during an opposed training session.
While the starting side wore their usual Storm training gear, the rest of the squad who were acting as the opposition were wearing Panthers jerseys. The move raised eyebrows around the NRL world, with Penrith prop Moses Leota describing it as "weird".
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But according to Bellamy, it was nothing out of the ordinary and has been going on at Storm training sessions for the last decade. "If you guys come here a little bit more often you'll probably see that during the year," the veteran coach said in a swipe at reporters.
"It's nothing new. When we face good opposition we just remind the players who we're playing. Having our reserve grade guys just wearing the T-shirts of the opposition, we've been doing that for 10 years.
"It's probably the fourth or fifth time we've done it this year. The idea is just to remind us who we're playing against ... what their strengths are and who their players are."
The Panthers got wind of the bizarre tactic on Wednesday, with Leota saying: "That was weird, it was the first time I have seen that. It is funny to see how other teams prepare."
Fellow front-rower James Fisher-Harris said he wouldn't have any issues if Panthers coach Ivan Cleary used the same tactic. "Whatever it is to help the team, that's why they're doing it," Fisher-Harris said, describing the move as "smart".
Bench forward Lindsay Smith, who signed a two-year contract extension on Tuesday, said he has done his fair share of imitating opposition players during practice sessions, but "never had to train in other teams jerseys."
Smith said: "I saw that today and had a little giggle. For our boys that aren't playing each week they will try and emulate the opposition team, the Storm have found a different way to do that this week."
Can the Storm turn around their fortunes against Panthers?
The Panthers have had the wood over Bellamy's side in recent times, winning five in a row against Melbourne. Cleary's men won both of their regular season match-ups against the Storm in 2023, prevailing 34-16 in round 18 and 26-6 in round 23.
The Panthers also won the last time the two sides clashed in a preliminary final - 10-6 in 2021. To make things even harder for Bellamy and the Storm, the Panthers are fully fresh after a week off, and will have five-eighth Jarome Luai back from a shoulder injury.
The Storm are coming off an unconvincing last-gasp win over the Roosters. "Everyone was excited after the game, winning a game like that is special, but having said that we were probably fortunate," Bellamy said of the 18-3 semi-final victory last week.
"Either team could've won it, but we did and it took a great play from (Cameron) Munster and (Will) Warbrick to score that try. It's given everyone a bit of an uplift, knowing that we can hang in and still come home at the end."
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