Temora’s Joe Stimson is soaking up the experience of NRL grand final week with the Melbourne Storm just as he has every other lesson this year.
Stimson is outside the Storm’s top 17 but named on an extended bench and with the squad in Sydney ahead of Sunday’s decider against North Queensland.
Speaking to The Daily Advertiser from the team’s hotel in Coogee, he said he’s taking in as much as he can from some of the best in the business.
After all, when it comes to playing on the big stage, few have done it as consistently, and consistently well, as Melbourne’s Queensland Origin stars, Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater.
“The club’s been buzzing really but in a relaxed way,” Stimson said.
“They treat it like every other week – they’re relaxed and they trust in the processes that we’ve got in place.
“It’s been good to watch what they do and to learn from them.
“I’ve been pretty lucky with the calibre of players that we have here. You’re always learning. They all prepare in their own individual way but you can pick pieces from all of them.”
That’s the way it’s been all season, since Stimson made his debut in round two against the Warriors in New Zealand and went on to play another 14 first grade games, including five straight wins from rounds 20-24.
After filling in for the injured Tohu Harris, the 21-year-old backrower has been just on the fringe throughout finals.
The message from the coaching staff in grand final week has been simple.
“They just say, ‘Train well and train like you’re playing. If you can help them prepare as well as they can then that’ll help the team’,” Stimson said.
Last year’s grand final loss to the Sharks hasn’t really been a talking point. Stimson said the priority, as always with Melbourne, is professionalism.
“Our main focus is just to deliver the game plan we’ve put in place,” he said.
The straightforward approach comes right from the top – coach Craig Bellamy, who’s a master at getting the best out of players.
“He’s been good. He’s always there to talk to, for sure, but probably the less he speaks to you the better,” Stimson said.
“He makes your role simple, he makes you focus on three key aspects. That’s the calming aspect – so if you concentrate on the three things he wants you to, that’s it, you’re doing your job.”
Stimson is signed for next season but there’s a changing of the guard at Melbourne with Harris, former Young Cherrypickers junior Jordan McLean moving on, along with star playmaker Cronk.
“It’d be awesome (to see them off with a win),” Stimson said.
“Especially Cooper… he’s done so much for this club, it’d be great if we can repay him with a win on Sunday.”
Stimson had a taste of grand final football last week, albeit a slightly sour one. He was part of the Sunshine Coast Falcons side which lost the Queensland Cup final to the Papua New Guinea Hunters in Brisbane.
“Obviously it was disappointing because we lost in the last minute,” he said. “It was very physical… and it was quite loud – as loud as an NRL game.
“There were about 11,000 people there and 10,000 of them would’ve been PNG Hunters fans. I was happy for them.”
Stimson said his parents will be in Sydney for Sunday’s NRL grand final at ANZ Stadium.