The First Game Back, So How Did It All Turn Out For Melbourne?

It was the end. You just had to ask the hacks in the media who were quick to point out that they had nothing to play for, no one cared anyway, and we might as well just forget Melbourne, the second largest city in Australia, and look to Gosford, the…..well, Gosford.

A funny thing happened along the way though….people cared!

Settling down to watch the Melbourne Storm host the New Zealand Warriors, I was ready for anything. I’d heard all the rumours, I’d listened to the media, I had faith, but I’ve learned to what comes when it comes to this great game of ours.

When I heard that Melbourne had mass changes to their back line, and it now looked closer to their Under 20’s lineup, I was worried.

It was soon after that I got a shot at the healthy crowd, a crowd already cheering for their team, and right then I knew, everything was going to be just fine.

You see, with the Storm, there has always been a feeling that it was a clinical, soulless show put on to get eyes on TV screens, to allow sponsors to get more exposure and to help fill the pockets of the other 15 NRL clubs.

But here you had nearly 24,000 fans on a Sunday night, 99% of them decked out in Storm Purple cheering for their team.

From this salary cap mess came a very unexpected byproduct. People in Melbourne realized they give a damn about their Rugby League team!

They were pissed off, upset, angry and disappointed. They called talk back shows, they wrote to news papers, they discussed what had happened with friends and family.

All of a sudden this team that sort of just existed in their city meant something to them. It tugged at their heart strings, good or bad. So when those 17 players ran out onto the field with supposedly nothing to play for, you better believe that the people of Melbourne stood and cheered on their team!

The Storm players themselves also proved something that we should have all known by now. Sure, they can’t wain competitions points this year, they will not make the finals and they will not win the NRL title. However, find me another team, at any level of the game, that can do what Melbourne does on a week in, week out basis.

Does anything need to be on the line when Cooper Cronk is throwing no look passes to a flying Billy Slater? Do I need to know the Storm have a chance to win the title to appreciate seeing Melbournes forwards lining up the opposition for big hits, for nothing else then a square up?

Melbourne are an exciting side to watch, some would suggest the most exciting team money can buy, however the fact their season won’t count in the record books doesn’t make them any less enjoyable to watch.

So you have a great team to watch with a massive point to prove, a fan base that just got kicked in the guts but who turned out in force to support a franchise that over the course of a week turned into a proper club, and a new stadium about to be opened in a few weeks time that will just enhance the whole thing!

The soulless corporate shop front in Melbourne certainly did die this week. It was replaced by a football club with players who care, fans that have a new rallying point and a city that just woke up to the fact that they have a Rugby League club that they really do care about.

Oh and for the record, the Melbourne Storm beat the New Zealand Warriors by a scoreline of 40-6 on ANZAC Day 2010.

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