Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy joked that rival coaches used to say the best way to stop his former superstar fullback Billy Slater would have been with a “double-barrel shotgun”.
Now Bellamy is the coach charged with stopping a player he thinks is even faster than Slater and, with armed force out of the question, hopes the plan he has devised is enough to stop Broncos gun Reece Walsh in Friday’s NRL qualifying final.
Walsh went try-less when the two teams met in Melbourne in round 11 and then was rested from the final round clash. Storm won both to continue a remarkable winning streak against the Broncos.
But Bellamy is extremely conscious of the threat Walsh provides, having enjoyed the same skill set when Slater was cutting up opposition teams when wearing purple.
“I think that question was asked to opposition coaches back when Billy (Slater) was playing and the answer was ‘with a double-barrel shotgun’,” Bellamy grinned after a training session in Brisbane on Thursday when asked his plans to combat Walsh.
“If anyone has got one of them, we might be able to take it out on the field.
“I don‘t know whether I have seen a quicker player than Reece. Billy was unbelievable at changing direction and still being quick, but that straight line pace (of Walsh) … I haven’t seen many quicker than this bloke.
“We have a little plan we are hoping to put into action but … he is a very dangerous player and a huge benefit for the Broncos.”
Bellamy’s outfit is not without its own dose of lightning in the form of returning Clive Churchill medallist Ryan Papenhuyzen.
The speedster is only two games back from an injury the coach thought may have ended his career when his kneecap smashed into 10 pieces in July last year and is set to come off the bench at Suncorp Stadium.
Bellamy doesn’t want to place any finals expectations on the 25-year-old but he looms as an X-factor for Melbourne in many ways.
“Paps has looked sharp but the more footy he plays the sharper he will get,” Bellamy said.
“I think he has added confidence to the rest of the team, especially our senior players.
“Everyone thinks of his pace, which is a great quality, but he knows the game really well and has played in a few positions in the last six weeks in the Queensland Cup and NRL.
“We just think that he will give the team plenty of energy and know how when he comes on.
“There are a couple of positions he might end up in.
“We are relying on how the game goes with how we use him. We haven’t got a 100 per cent plan.”
Originally published as Storm coach Craig Bellamy hopes his plan can stop Reece Walsh