Storm coach Bellamy envious of Panthers' precision

Craig Bellamy says it's time for Melbourne to learn from Penrith as another year without a grand final appearance leaves the Storm struggling to come to terms with their new-found standing in the NRL's foodchain.

For over two decades under Bellamy's relentless and methodical coaching, the Storm have been the poster boys for consistency.

But, as they have done all season, Melbourne showed in Friday's preliminary final loss to Penrith that they can longer be considered the unstoppable force that they once were.

Bellamy went as far as to say that the Panthers were now the benchmark in the NRL after their 38-4 victory - the biggest in an NRL preliminary final - helped them romp past the Storm and into a fourth-straight grand final.

"They are so good at what they do," Bellamy said of the Panthers.

"Their big players played strongly, but it wasn't their best games.

"The other 13 or 14 members of that squad play at 95 per cent and that's what they do every week.

"They know what works for them and what their job is and they're so consistent at doing their job.

"We just seem to go up and down, sometimes we're good and then not so good and that's what we need to learn to do."

Not since the 2020 grand final have the Storm made it through to a decider, and that coincides with the retirement of club great Cameron Smith.

In the time since, the Storm's finals record reads 3-3 and it's been patently obvious how much Melbourne have missed a calm and steady hand at hooker.

Harry Grant looked rushed against the Panthers and that had a flow-on effect for his halves duo of Cameron Munster and Jahrome Hughes, who have clearly been playing through pain at the back end of the season.

Gigantic prop Nelson Asofa-Solomona seemed to be their only impetus and he was taken off after 15 minutes against the Panthers because, as Bellamy put it, "he was looking for a rest".

How they could have done with the likes of Felise Kaufusi or Kenny Bromwich, who departed for the Dolphins over the off-season and whose workmanlike replacements were badly exposed against Penrith.

Bellamy has often been lauded for turning unlikely first-graders into reliable centrepieces of his team, but now he must get them to find another gear if they are to challenge Penrith in 2024.

"We had a big change in personnel over the off-season," he said.

"We did a really good job to get to where we got to in the table. The final series is basically what our season has been - up and down.

"You're not going to go a long way in the competition unless you start evening that out."