8 April 2013, NRL, Melbourne Storm v Wests Tigers, 7.00pm, AAMI Park
When I was on holiday I read a book called the Rugby League Almanac. It says it is “a game by game account of the NRL season written by people just like you: the fans“. It’s edited by John Harms, a writer and presenter who you may recognise from ABC’s “Offsiders”, or his work in The Age, or his tweets (@ratherbeatlunch). He’s a top bloke, who I’ve had the pleasure of meeting on a few occasions.
Well, Harmsy, I’m putting my hand up to write about the Storm in the next Almanac so as to save us from the tripe served up about some of the Storm matches! I don’t mind articles being written by opposition fans, I like to think I’m not that petty, but some of the articles about Melbourne were just lazy. In particular, Luke Jamieson wrote two articles about Storm matches without actually mentioning the game! Our comeback win over the Titans was replaced by a discussion of past Rugby League nicknames. One of the better matches of the season – our loss to North Queensland at AAMI Park, was almost ignored in favour of a discussion about how nobody knows why the Melbourne side is called the “Storm”. He suggested the Melbourne Drizzle as a name. Very clever.
Reading about how much those writers hate the Storm had me very fired up to come to the first game back – the Monday Night clash with Wests Tigers.
The case against
The Storm cop it from the northern states for a few reasons.
1. Salary cap.
…and rightly so. I’ve said before we can’t argue that this was a breach of the rules and a sad blight on an otherwise great era for the club. The issue now is that the stigma remains with the club, despite now being cleared of wrongdoing in the subsequent years.
2. News Limited.
The club is owned by News Limited, who until recently were half-owners of the NRL. Many Sydney clubs hate the Broncos and the Storm because of their owners. That was because News Limited were behind “Super League”. For some reason, few in Sydney seem to have a problem with Penrith and Canterbury accepting the News Limited coins during the Super League war, but the Broncos and Melbourne can go and get stuffed.
Craig Bellamy and his team have had a tremendous influence on the game with tactics to slow down the play-the-ball, strengthen defence, and set plays. There’s been anger when it crosses into illegal play – such as contact to the head, but that’s ok because that’s been unlawful for ages.
One of the articles in the Almanac is written by an Eels fan who said the Storm has the “football ethics of a death adder“. Of course, he failed to mention where the Eels coach Steve Kearney had played his football. Melbourne. It’s phenomenal that so many people from other clubs bag the Storm’s style of play but then ruthlessly recruit our staff and players. Have a look at South Sydney – Led by Michael Maguire, their playing staff includes Matt King, Greg Inglis and Michael Crocker, all part of the 2007 Storm Grand Final winning side.
The thing is – the Storm are the only expansion side that has succeeded in a non-Rugby League state. Adelaide and Perth died almost as quickly as they started. I would have thought that would get respect from the north, not derision. But I guess that’s not the case.
A late escape
The very healthy crowd of 18,000 was undoubtedly boosted by the “Makita Mates Night” promotion. There’s no doubt a large number of free tickets boost crowds in other states from time to time, so I’m not too worried about the fact we also got a boost. Regardless, that’s a brilliant crowd for a Monday night game. It encourages new fans who might come back for more later in the years. Some Sydney clubs would kill for those numbers.
The crowd was loud and passionate early but the Tigers kept us out from the try line time after time. They took the lead and we were all a bit stunned. The Tigers deserve plenty of credit for their defence in that first half. They made some great tackles, held their line well, and despite giving away a few penalties, stopped us from scoring.
In one sequence of play the Tigers conceded three penalties. Speaking with a Tigers fan from work later that week, he laughed at the suggestion that a Tigers player should have been sent off for the repeated penalties. He said “Oh come on – a Storm fan complaining about slowing down the play? That’s rich!” No, I’m not talking about slowing down the play generally. I’m just saying that if you do it illegally, it’s not on. When you do it repeatedly and illegally, like Wests did, the team gets warned, and if you do it again, someone gets sent off. Simple.
The Tigers were looking good and it got out to 12-6 when Marshall scored following a Fonua error. But then the Storm clicked. Fonua would have been thrilled to score the try which (following the conversion) levelled the game, to make up for his earlier mistake. Then the floodgates opened through Cronk, then Waqa, then a Widdop penalty sealed the match. A solid 26 to 12 win! I love the never say die attitude. They could have tried to chop and change what they were doing but they had the belief and the determination to see it out and get the points.
I give it five stars
The remainder of the Rugby League Almanac was a good read. It told some great yarns about some great games in a fantastic 2012 [premiership!] season and is worth a read if you’re an NRL fan. While others may hate us, it doesn’t matter. Every week we are treated to watching the best side in the game.
Yours in Sport,