They used to be an odity, something different from AFL that Victorians were happy to have a quick look at before going back to their domestic code. These days however the Melbourne Storm have their own growing fan base, one thats Rugby League savvy and who have embraced “their” team.
It took a long time and a lot of persistance though. The Storm were formed in 1998 and coming up on their tenth season in the NRL next year its amazing to think how far they have come.
Their Grand Final win in 1999 was a shock to everyone and while it was an instant boost to the clubs profile in Melbourne, it probably slowed longer term growth for a few years as sports fans down south almost expected continued success.
A few lean years followed and the critics jumped on board calling for the club to be moved from the second largest city in Australia to Gosford, a regional center situated between Manly and Newcastle.
However with the signing of coach Craig Bellemy, the emergence of a hanfull of young stars and the birth of the clubs own identity and culture, the Storms support slowly started to grow, this time for long term benifit.
The Victorian Government announced the building of a 31,000 seat, rectangular field stadium to host the Storm and Melbourne Victory soccer club. The ARL commited more development dollars to the southern state and commited to play Origin games and Test matches in Melbourne.
During the Storms Grand Final appearence last year the club drew more TV viewers in Victoria than any other game in the history of Rugby League has ever managed.
This year, with their major semi final clash at Telstra Dome assured, the club is looking for a big crowd and with over 14,000 already sold, they are assured of one.
It’s taken nearly a decade but the Storm have cemented their place in Melbourne with hard work and the formation of a unique culture. Lets hope they can kick on to yet another Grand Final apperance and continue Australian Rugby Leagues Storm era.
A well known Rugby League writer, League Freak has established a reputation among supporters of the game for his fearless commentary and unmatched insight. With a reach that spans both sides of the globe, League Freak has produced an independent network that allows him to distribute content to his many thousands of followers. He is the owner and main author of LeagueFreak.com
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