Looking back on 2023, the preliminary final appearance of the Storm will be seen as the ultimate vindication of what Craig Bellamy has built at the club. In a year where they weren’t that good, where they had a transitional period for their rosters and where several of their stars were below their best, Melbourne still finished in the top four and, in the end, with relative ease. The resilient culture that has been the centrepiece of Bellamy’s philosophy as a coach was able to ride it out. They were never a serious challenger to the Panthers, losing three times by a combined score of 98-26, and while they did defeat Brisbane on two of the three occasions, one required the Bronx to have three men sin binned, another was a glorified Q Cup clash in the final round and the other, when it mattered, saw the Storm thrashed 26-0. It’s unlikely that Bellamy is likely to change his tactics this late in the day, and every year that he has to decide whether to go again will bring with it speculation. At 29, it’s unlikely that Munster’s decline is terminal, and it would be very like the man to come back with another barnstorming season to prove everyone wrong. They have some of the brightest talents in the game, so they might be able to win it all again. If they are to send Bellamy out on a high, it’ll be Munster who is the main man. After a poor end to 2023, he’ll be as motivated as ever to make it happen.