Obviously the Melbourne Storm are under the pump at the moment and you will find a lot of the good old fashioned Rugby League alarmists talking about the complete demise of the club.
That would be great for the game, we could then look to expand the comp in 15 years time and wonder why we let Melbourne die!
I don’t personally think the Storm are in any danger of going under, and for a number of different reasons.
A lot of different commitments have been made to the Storm, and these are long term commitments. On top of that, you have a solid playing group, even if you took away a couple of their star players.
Lets go through them in my typical headlines manner!
The Clean Out
The owners of the Storm, News Ltd, are pissed off. You can be sure that they will put a broom through the club and that has already happened with the CEO replaced already and auditors going through the club.
The good thing about having News Ltd involved in the club is that they will have plenty of people they will be able to slot into administrative positions who will have no baggage.
The big problem will be getting the team back under the salary cap. They can ask players to take a pay cut, but they will still have to lose players no matter what. We saw the Bulldogs have to do this, and it was less painful than you would have expected. Unless anyone gets put out and leaves for more money elsewhere, they should be ok to a point.
The big loss would be that of Craig Bellemy. Its been suggested he may be gone within a week. I’d suggest that Ricky Stuart couldn’t turn down coaching Melbourne, however you could also see Steve Kearney take over.
Looking at all those changes, some are very much needed and good for the club. Others hurt, but are not crippling.
Back when the Super League War broke out, News Ltd wanted a team in Melbourne. Originally they were going to be called the Mavericks and have a blue and white jersey. Things changed though and they didn’t get it all set up in time for the 1997 break away Super League competition.
When the ARL/Super League peace deal was reached at the end of 1997, News Ltd had a major condition that they would set up a Melbourne side in the newly formed NRL competition, and the Storm was born.
With no salary cap in place, the Storm were formed mostly with players from the Perth Reds and the Hunter Mariners, both of which were News Ltd owned teams that were shut down.
News Ltd has been committed to the Storm over every team short of the Brisbane Broncos (Which they are a majority owner of). Even in the face of this major embarrassment, they have given their full commitment to the club.
I think News Ltd knows how much having a presence in Melbourne means to the NRL. Its the shop front for the game in the second most populated state in Australia.
The New Stadium And Government Backing
The Storm move into a fantastic 31,000 seat stadium in three weeks time. Its a massive upgrade from their normal home ground at Olympic Park, which would have to be the worst venue for a top grade sporting team in Australia!
The Storm got this stadium with backing from the Victorian Government, which really started giving a lot more commitment to Rugby League in Victoria through the funding of juniors, getting the stadium built and looking to attract bigger events like Test matches and State Of Origins to Melbourne.
It took a long time to get that sort of commitment in place and showed the Storm were making progress.
They have a very good culture down there in Melbourne, and it comes from being in a very different city where its you against the rest of the competition.
Most players can get around Melbourne without being noticed. It lets them have a different lifestyle down there and not get caught up in off field problems.
It also makes the club something they can really belong to, something they can commit to with other like minded players from NSW, QLD and NZ.
It all comes together to build a very good culture, and one that gets sustained no matter how many players come and go.
They don’t have a huge amount of attending fans down in Melbourne, but the ones they have are as rock solid as they get!
The team gets no promotion down there, they games shown by Channel Nine are on at ridiculous times, and then they have to put up with AFL bombardment!
If they were bandwagoners, I’d worry. But these are the type of fans that will stick by the club through thick and thin. Hurt, most defiantly! You have to remember though, these people love Rugby League so much that they go right out of their way to support their team, and the game.
Melbourne will have a rough couple of years, and the biggest damage is to their reputation. However as long as sponsors still want to be involved in the NRL, the Storm will be fine.
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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