RICKY STUART – SUNDAY TELEGRAPH COLUMN

Ricky Stuart: The Storm are driven by the big three, but everyone in the team does their part precisely

Ricky Stuart reckons Cameron Smith and Billy Slater will be all smiles on Sunday night. Picture: Gregg Porteous Source: The Daily Telegraph

THE Big Four, as Bryan Norrie described them on radio this week – although the other three should feel privileged that he has included them with him – have some very special qualities off the football field.

From a coach’s perspective, that creates the environment to get it right so many times on the field.

I have coached Cam Smith and Billy Slater with the Australian team, which is only a small involvement, and have had less to do with Cooper Cronk.

But their preparation off the football field helps them enormously in their execution on the field.

It is hard to underestimate how important this is. It’s the other ingredient required to become a great player. It separates the great from the good.

It’s the ability to not just make the right decision on the field, which even the average player can do, but to make the right decision on a consistent basis.

This intuition is not just football intelligence, it’s a feel that they can’t explain.

A hunch.

Storm big three

Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk congratulate Billy Slater of the Storm after he scored a try in the second half during the NRL Preliminary Final match between the Melbourne Storm and the Manly Sea Eagles. Picture: Getty ImagesSource: The Daily Telegraph

But it is a quality developed off the field, and that is what these three are so good at.

They have their lifestyle in order – their relationships, the training, the little extras they do. Off-field behaviour replicates itself on-field.

This is what separates them from other individuals.

The old line in sports is that there is no “I” in team, but there is in Individual.

As individuals, these guys are always prepared to make sure their best football is ready to be played.

When I go looking for a winner I always revert to the team with more individual brilliance to win the game.

I know Melbourne’s big three will turn up.

They will not only give their best but have the ability to get the best out of those around them.

Watch the way Melbourne take the ball to an edge, turning the ball inside or out, trying to create space.

It’s driven by the big three, but everyone in the team knows their job and do their part precisely.

Here I’m talking the lesser known players, such as the last member of the Big Four – Bryan Norrie – who all do their job so well.

Bryan Norrie

The other member of ‘the big four’ Bryan Norrie.  Picture: Michael KleinSource: The Daily Telegraph

Now, they have to produce one more performance.

Under Craig Bellamy, they’re more than capable.

I’ve said before that I don’t believe this semi-final series is the best we have seen, but I really believe these two teams are primed to give us a great game this evening.

The attitude of the Melbourne’s big three is such a lesson to younger players, most of whom are still learning about accountability and responsibility.

The trick to most football teams is that individuals look after themselves and coaches look after the team.

It fails only when the individual doesn’t care about himself as much as the coach cares about the team.

That’s not the case here.

And I believe Melbourne do it better than everybody.

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