It was easily the biggest rugby league scandal since the Super League war of the mid 1990’s. Perhaps it was the biggest sporting scandal Australia has ever seen. In 2010 the Melbourne Storm took us all for a ride and cheated the National Rugby League.
“We are devastated. This is the lowest day for our club. We have betrayed the trust of the Australian people. We haven’t played by the rules” Storm chairman Dr. Rob Moodie told The Courier Mail at the time.
This isn’t a Storm hate piece or an attempt to open old wounds. But we need to go back in time and remember what happened to truly appreciate what Craig Bellamy and his men are doing now.
Melbourne were simply unbeatable. The absolute envy of opponents and fans across the country. They were like Skynet terminators rolling through the NRL and crushing everything in its path.
In a four year period, the Storm made three grand finals and won two of them. There was nothing like them and nobody could come close to conquering this seemingly insurmountable mountain.
And then, all hell broke loose.
Cameron Vale, now at the North Melbourne Kangaroos AFL club as a financial officer, was apparently the whistleblower. A claim he refutes.
The Storm had been keeping two books. How could this happen? Why did this happen?
Then Chief Executive Office Brian Waldron was apparently the mastermind behind it all. Everything this club had achieved was done so on the back of cheating, deception and a complete lack of respect for the fans and the NRL.
“We had some rats in our ranks. A small group of senior managers at the club orchestrated and concealed the extra payments. They are Brian Waldron, Matt Hanson, Paul Gregory, Peter O’Sullivan and Cameron Vale” CEO of News Limited John Hartigan said at the time.
For all intents and purposes, the Storm and rugby league in Melbourne were dead. There was no way back, there couldn’t be. Any kind of indent the NRL had made in the hearts of an AFL mad city were for nothing.
But something happened. Something that only certain people have inside them. Instead of packing up with their tails between their legs, coach Bellamy and his players made a decision to stay and rebuild what others had broken.
So for the rest of 2010 they played for no points. The majority of other clubs in the NRL wouldn’t have done what the Storm did. They played and were competitive, and most times they won.
Some players left and naturally the roster dramatically changed.
The Victorian public didn’t give up on the Storm because the players never game up on them. They started from scratch and set their sights on 2011.
Any other coach would have set a moderate goal in 2011. Be competitive? Make the playoffs? A regular season split? Not Bellamy.
The Storm clinched the minor premiership in 2011. If by chance they actually won the 2011 grand final? It would have easily been the biggest sporting comeback Australia had ever witnessed.
On the 24th of September 2011 at a packed AAMI Park, the Storm ran out for the grand final qualifier against New Zealand Warriors. Everything was set for one giant celebration. Unbelievably, Melbourne were only 80 minutes away from being back in the grand final.
As the cliché goes, everything didn’t go to script. The Warriors out muscled Melbourne and stole victory. Storm fans were heartbroken again.
But any good script has three acts. We’ve only seen two. Through all the deception, heartache, redemption and loss is the third act.
The third act is 2012 and the Storm are back on top of the NRL. If everything goes to plan for the Melbourne Storm, the greatest sporting comeback we have ever seen will culminate on the 30th of September at ANZ Stadium.
THIS WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON FOOTYSOCIAL.COM.AU