The Storm look busted, Craig Bellamy is scrapping for answers and it’s terrific.

For anyone sick of the Melbourne Storm’s annoying abilities to remain consistently in its premiership window and casually stroll into the NRL semi-finals without concern, now might be the time to celebrate.

With four consecutive losses to the Manly Sea Eagles, Cronulla Sharks, Canberra Raiders and South Sydney Rabbitohs respectively, six defeats in their last nine, as well as problematic injuries and suspensions and the ongoing distraction and debate around which club Cameron Munster will choose to play for in 2024, the wheels appear to have fallen off the Storm for the first time since, well, forever.

Since 2011, the lowest NRL finishing position the Melbourne Storm have achieved is sixth. That came in 2014 and despite the merit of making the finals in that year, it is almost out of step with the consistent excellence displayed by the NRL’s most dominant side both before and after.

An average end of home and away season ladder position of 2.18 across that period has daylight second and third when it comes to any other team even daring to rival such consistency.

In that time, the men in purple have won three premierships, been runners-up on two occasions, never missed the finals and have advanced to the final four teams in the running in nine of those eleven years.

This is the post salary-cap scandal Storm. The club many rugby league fans detested after the real reasons came to light around their ability to arm itself with what always looked from the outside like a stacked deck.

Despite a few no doubt hoping that the corruption uncovered would lead to a weakening of performance in Melbourne, if anything, master coach Craig Bellamy made them better. Even the retirements of Billy Slater and Cameron Smith didn’t derail the applecart, nor the departure of Cooper Cronk to the Sydney Roosters.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 13: Cooper Cronk of the Roosters thanks fans after winning the NRL Qualifying Final match between the Sydney Roosters and the South Sydney Rabbitohs at Sydney Cricket Ground on September 13, 2019 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Significant representation during the State of Origin period rarely appears to disturb Bellamy’s ‘one man out, one man in’ philosophy and he has always silenced any talk of mid-season vulnerability by presenting a team that is humming along in high gear come semi-final time.

Yet this time around and with the Storm slipping further from runaway leaders Penrith on the ladder, something does seem a little different.

Hearing the coach openly admit to not being confident when it came to getting back on track in 2022 would have been unimaginable in season’s past, yet also clear evidence that the recent error-riddled play of Melbourne is far more than a minor dip in form.

The Storm look low on confidence, tentative with their handling and are dropping off tackles as we have never witnessed before. Souths exposed all three from the opening minutes on Saturday night and the 24-12 score line potentially flattered the losers.

With a run home featuring matches against fellow top eight sides Panthers, Broncos, Roosters and Eels, Bellamy’s men had best reverse their current form, else the lower regions of the top eight will be where they reside come season’s end. His blunt messaging to the players in regards to the responsibility they must take for recent results was unmissable in the post-game on Saturday.

Craig Bellamy has nothing to prove as a coach and as a result, has laid blame fair and square with his troops.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 02: Storm coach Craig Bellamy and Cameron Smith of the Storm look on after the round 26 NRL match between the Melbourne Storm and the Canberra Raiders at AAMI Park on September 2, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

Apart from earning no sympathy from many NRL fans; those pleased as punch to see the mighty Storm teetering on the fringes on contention with six weeks remaining in the home and away season, the situation also sets up a semi-final narrative that few would dismiss as unlikely.

Anyone willing to write off Bellamy’s chances of righting the ship in the lead in to the finals is a fool. This is exactly the type of situation he and the Wayne Bennett’s of the rugby league world thrive on. In fact, Melbourne’s current storm is near a perfect one, where the coaching genius comes to the fore and re-ignites a team desperate for some spark.

Personally, I’d prefer it no happen and am enjoying seeing new sides challenge for the top four and beyond, However, it would be far from surprising if everything is rosy again in Melbourne in just a few weeks’ time.