A Message from a Storm Supporter.
If I was to tell you that people hate the Melbourne Storm, you wouldn’t be surprised at all. I reckon if there were a poll of the all NRL fans, most would agree that Storm is up the top when it comes to the team that people love to hate. Well, not me. I am an avid Storm fan and have been since day dot. I know that a lot of people believe you have to stick with the team you love and can only ever have one footy team. Not true I’m afraid; you can’t expect a newly formed team to come with a ready-made supporter base.
Storm is actually the 4 rd team I’ve followed in my 40 years on this planet, but the only one I’ve cared about for 20 years. Being a Queenslander, I used to support the Broncos way back in the 80’s until Wally left. I wasn’t too happy with the way in which Wally was stripped of his captaincy and forced out of the club. I mean seriously, what Queensland born kid didn’t want to be like “The King”.
Seeing as I was living in Newcastle at the time, I thought it best to support the same team a lot of my mates were going for, and I supported them until the day they won the GF in 1995. I was actually at Newcastle Workers club watching the game, and after they won, I decided to hang around for the team to arrive. That was the day I met Andrew Johns and found out first-hand how big a dickhead he was. So here I was a clubless Rugby League fan, still in love with the game, and I went to as many games as I could often braving the 3-5 hours on the train from Newy to Sydney to go to games because I didn’t want to go to what was then called Marathon Stadium.
What a time to be without a club, the Super League Era. I mean the footy was still good, some would say brilliant, but I didn’t have a dog in the fight so it was really hard to be a passionate supporter. I bounced around for couple of years still enjoying going out every weekend myself and strapping on the boots in the juniors and trying to get to games but really wasn’t the passionate supporter I once was. I knew what I needed, I needed a team to support. I thought with the Superleague AND ARL, I would be able to find SOMEONE to support and I did.
The Western Reds.
As I said, I’m a Queenslander, and we all know how much Queenslanders love the Underdog tag, and what could be more under-dog like than a team based on the other side of the country in a state that loves that stupid AFL game. Well in 1997 the Superleague war ended and in season 1998 a new competition known as the National Rugby League (NRL) was formed, Western Reds folded but a lot of the players were going to an even harder location to win over, Melbourne. BAM, underdog status confirmed. Who would have thought? A Rugby League team in Melbourne! I had to jump on that. And that is how I became to follow the Storm.
In 1999 they won their first title. I didn’t get to watch the game as I was on a bus from Rockhampton to Perth over Grand Final weekend, but I did have a retro boom box, 10 packets of D cell batteries and a cheap set of headphones. The reception was shithouse, but I really enjoyed listened to EVERY MINUTE of the game, kinda hard to do on a bus across the Nullabour.
SO, now that the history lesson is over, I will go a little deeper into what its like. I mean I get that people are pissed over the whole Salary Cap scandal, and I as a fan was extremely pissed at the time too, but not at the players or the fans, I was pissed at the management of the club. After all is said and done, its people with pens who make decisions. I’m sure if the players were asked if they knew about a second set of books, they’d all deny it. Most of them probably didn’t, but I’m sure a few did.
BUT just because the TEAM MANAGEMENT cheated the salary cap doesn’t mean the fans did. I know of a few fans who actually took all their merch to Storm HQ and dropped it at reception, spoke a few unsavory words before leaving it all there and walking back out to try find another team to support or go back to GAYFL. Not me, I remained loyal. Did it hurt to see the 2 premierships as well as minor premierships stripped, bloody oath it did. Did it hurt to watch my team play a whole season for no points? HELL YES!! Especially when you work out Win/Loss and P/D, Storm would EASILY have made the finals in 2010. But I stayed faithful, even got ink to support my team.
I’m sure there are many reasons people will spout off for not liking the Storm, including Cameron Smith and Billy Slater, but I also know that when they were wearing Green & Gold the same haters loved them (go on, admit it, you know it’s true). And I’m not saying that you have to like the team, but how about show a little bit more respect for the supporters of the team. I have never cheated at anything (except maybe monopoly when I was a kid), never been given a boat, never had 2 sets of books and never even been to NRLHQ let alone spoken to anyone involved in the running or officiating of the game.
I have met a lot of good people through Rugby League, a couple of Tigers fans, a few Eels fans even a Sharks fan. I do not discriminate against a person because of the team they support. I mean banter is banter and banter is fun, but its just that ‘a bit of fun’. No one ever takes these comments seriously. I’m glad I live in Melbourne where people are ignorant for the most part, and NRL gets called RUGBY (which shits me to no end) and I can walk around in my supporters gear and no one gives a shit, however if I still lived in Sydney or Newcastle I bet it would be a different story. There is so much hatred for the team, the players and the fans. We cop it like champions, coz that’s what we do. 10 years on and people still have to rag on about it. DUDE IT HAPPENED, GET OVER IT.
I guess what it all comes down to is respect. I was raised with it. I was taught to treat others the way you want to get treated, so I try to be nice (or at least civil) to everyone. Even though I think people as a collective are all fucked, I do like people as individuals. Everyone has the right to choose what they want for dinner, what job they want to do, what team to follow, where they want to live. I chose to move to Melbourne so I could enjoy going to home games, but even at our own ground, people still hang shit on us. I mean seriously if there were an all in brawl started by the opposing teams fans, it would be 17,000 v 1,000 most weeks, Melbourne fans would kick ass and still get labelled cheats.
I know I tend to get on a bit of a rant, but that’s just because I’m passionate about the game I love. I love seeing how much the game is growing and expanding into other regions across the world. Toronto now has a team in the UK superleague competition how awesome is that. I will leave you with this final thought. I love my team, I love the game and I love all the healthy debating that talking about Rugby League can generate, but there is nothing ‘healthy’ about belittling someone or insulting them just because of the team they support.
GROW THE FUCK UP PEOPLE, WE’RE ALL ADULTS HERE.
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