Round 1 record continues
The Melbourne Storm extended their remarkable record of Round 1 wins to 13 consecutive victories following a gritty 12-6 win over the Canterbury Bulldogs at Belmore Sports Ground on Friday night.
Extending their incredible streak was an impressive feat on the road in front of a hostile home crowd and in tough wet-weather conditions.
However, it is only Round 1 and captain Cameron Smith knows there's a long way to go for Melbourne to return to the Telstra Premiership decider.
"I don't think I've ever played a Round 1 game and come away and thought 'it can't get any better than that'," Smith said.
"I think there are some fundamental things we need to improve on – there's no doubt about that."
The Storm are renowned for their gruelling preseason training sessions and boot camps which were initially planned in anticipation of a tricky State of Origin period without many of their star players.
While they may lose several key members again this year, getting off to a good start is still a priority for Craig Bellamy who enters his 15th season as head coach.
"We had more focus on it five or six years ago when we had a lot of players in Origin because we knew it was going to be a real strain on us," Bellamy said.
"We had six or seven in Origin so we planned for a lull. But these days we haven't got a whole heap. We've got Cam (Smith) and Coops (Cooper Cronk), hopefully (Will) Chambers too, and Macca (Jordan McLean) and Dale (Finucane) might be in line for NSW."
Their off-season formula has served them well over their long period of sustained success as an NRL powerhouse.
"I'd like to think too that we work really hard in the pre-season," Bellamy said.
"Every team would think they work really hard in the preseason but I'd like to think that players who get through our pre-season will handle most things come Round 1.
"The last couple of years we had games that could go either way, like tonight could've gone either way."
Melbourne jumped out to an early 12-0 lead before Canterbury fought back to regain momentum and trail by six points.
Their extra efforts in the pre-season were the exact difference that got them over the line against a desperate Bulldogs side who were storming home.
"They (the Bulldogs) had plenty of opportunities down our end," Smith said.
"Defensively I was very pleased with our effort.
"I was quite pleased with how we played out the game given Jesse Bromwich left early (with a dislocated thumb injury) too.
"Young guys, who came on for short stints last year, had to play big minutes tonight and I was really proud of what they did."