Is Melbourne’s dominance coming to an end?

Mark Campbell Roar Guru

By Mark Campbell, Mark Campbell is a Roar Guru

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25 Have your say

    The Melbourne side was born out of the Super League storm. As teams crumbled and disappeared around them, they came to the fore with a side ready to challenge for the title.

    The Storm needed early success to justify its place in the soon to be 14-team competition. The team not only did well, it won the competition in 1999 – their second season. Though if anyone thinks that the Melbourne team were not guaranteed a place from 2000 and beyond, they were living in a false reality.

    Seasons 2001 and 2002 were disappointing, but signing Craig Bellamy for the 2003 season was a masterstroke. During his tenure we have seen a dominance over the code that rarely happens. It is akin to the Dogs and Eels of the 1980s and Brisbane Broncos of the 1990s.

    One wonders if their dominance will continue now that Cooper Cronk has left and Billy Slater and Cameron Smith are a season or two away from retirement.

    There were many naysayers when the Storm began. Many fans were still angry from the Super League war. Fans were mad that their team either merged, died or was expelled to make way for an upstart. However, having Melbourne in the competition adds value to the league.

    (AAP Image/David Moir)

    The club has suffered bad days. Many enthusiasts wondered whether they would continue to exist. Firstly, it was the continuing losses the club made in its early years. Many pundits queried News Limited and wondered how long they would support a loss-making venture.

    Secondly, the salary cap drama took away two titles from the 2007 and 2009 seasons. I’m curious to see who thinks that they should get these titles back. Arguments could be made that other teams may have been cheating the cap as well. Personally I am not bothered either way.

    Regardless of the salary cap drama, the club persevered. In 2012 the side won the grand final. In 2016 they lost the grand final to Cronulla-Sutherland before winning the 2017 decider over the North Queensland Cowboys. The 2018 season should be interesting as they undertake it without the execution of Cooper Cronk. Is Melbourne’s dominance coming to an end?

    With the club’s success it has gained a foothold in AFL-obsessed Melbourne. The Storm organisation has been smart. They have not had a ridiculous ambition to overtake the popularity of the AFL. That would be similar to climbing Mount Everest with a broken leg. However, they realised that Aussie Rules is akin to a religion in Victoria, so they decided to set up their own church.

    (AAP Image/Julian Smith)

    The Storm go out of their way to welcome new fans. They have embraced what has worked so well for the AFL: memberships. In 2017 the Melbourne Storm were ranked fourth for membership numbers with 20,296 fans actively paying to support their team. I do not doubt that this number will continue to rise.

    Let’s put this number into perspective. The club, which has just over 20 years of existence, is fourth in member support. They are doing very well or all other clubs are underperforming in this area. I think it is probably a combination of both.

    To further prove that they have cemented a niche market in Australia’s second-largest city, they were second for home crowd averages, with 18,000-odd fans. Yes, I know they have AAMI Park, a great stadium to watch the game, but it is still impressive.

    The 2017 season was not one of the best for crowds for the NRL, and I feel sorry for the teams that got lumped with the Friday night 6pm time slot. Yet these numbers do tell you something: the Melbourne Storm are here to stay. Whether they remain the superpower in the game only time will tell.

    If you are a Melbourne Storm fan, appreciate the dominance that you have sustained. As a neutral, I wish the club the greatest of success regarding finances, membership numbers and home crowd averages. I just hope that the team’s on-field successes do not come at the cost of my own team.

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    The Crowd Says (25)

    • December 28th 2017 @ 9:17am
      Geoff from Bruce Stadium said | December 28th 2017 @ 9:17am | ! Report

      It will be fascinating to see what happens to the Storm when Smith and Slater retire. They still have some promise in the halves with Munster and Croft coming through. But it is almost impossible to replace the quality of Smith and Slater. The major stabilising advantage they have is Craig Bellamy. The bloke is fanatical in his determination to succeed. I have the utmost respect for the Storm. They have set the bench mark for standards in the NRL. They are no angels though. Evidenced by their tactics to slowdown the play the ball through wresting tactics and niggle which other teams were forced to mimic. Plus they are masters at encroaching on the 10 metres in the defensive line and manage to get away with it. The Sharks have adopted a similar tactic and seem to get away with it. Cameron Smith – wonderful player and captain that he is – also appears to have more influence on matches by his interaction with the refs compared with others. Good luck to him. As a Raiders supporter its the contests against the Storm that I really look forward to seeing. It will be interesting to see whether the Storm can maintain their supporter base if their performances start to drop off when Smith and Slater retire.

      • December 28th 2017 @ 9:57am
        Albo said | December 28th 2017 @ 9:57am | ! Report

        Spot on Geoff ! As a Panther fan, I can’t wait to see the back of Smith & Slater as my mob just haven’t been able to beat the Storm in any era, particularly over the last decade. But it looks like they will still be around for another season or two, and as such, there still no light at the end of the tunnel for me. The Storm set up is the best in the league, especially with their recruitment and succession planning. Whilst they have finally lost Cronk they have a ready made replacement already blooded in young Croft who could be anything in the game as well. With Munster also stepping up into the 6 so well, they will again be tough to toss in 2018. They always augment their dominant spine with a good pack that never lets them down. Guys like Felise Kaufusi , Nelson Asofa- Solomona, Dale Finucan & the Bromwich boys, are regularly being found and transformed into high class forwards. They are already planning for the Cam Smith retirement with young Brandon Smith being blooded already. Obviously Bellamy is the key here as he gets the best out of all his charges. They have the best off field and on-field management of any club. I can see them going back to back in 2018.

    • December 28th 2017 @ 10:28am
      Big Daddy said | December 28th 2017 @ 10:28am | ! Report

      Not a ball kicked in anger or a tackle made and your already written them off.
      If they don’t make the eight then it may be a concern.

    • December 28th 2017 @ 11:16am
      RandyM said | December 28th 2017 @ 11:16am | ! Report

      They will be top 4 again, definitely won’t be a repeat of this year though.

      • December 28th 2017 @ 12:27pm
        Peter Phelps said | December 28th 2017 @ 12:27pm | ! Report

        i agree, won’t be a repeat of last year. Last year was close to perfection and I doubt any club will achieve what the storm did last yr. That said, I do think the back to back record has a very good chance of being broken in 2018. If croft steps up, it could be another storm year.

    • December 28th 2017 @ 12:31pm
      Peter Phelps said | December 28th 2017 @ 12:31pm | ! Report

      Melbourne’s success on the gates/memberships front in the heart of AFL territory and where every home game represents major travel for away fans is a clear reason why we have to have more clubs outside of sydney. Expand, relocate, merge or whatever but for the good of the game, we need clubs in Perth and Adelaide as well as a second team in Brisbane.

      • December 29th 2017 @ 7:59am
        duecer said | December 29th 2017 @ 7:59am | ! Report

        It is very true that if you have a well performing team, then they will get a boost at the gate, as has been proven with the Swans and the Storm. Let’s see what happens if either team has a few lean years. The Storm really have had a fantastic run and it looks likely to continue, but, as with any team, a few bad years and crowds will tumble – just look at the Lions in the AFL.

    • Roar Guru

      December 28th 2017 @ 12:38pm
      Nat said | December 28th 2017 @ 12:38pm | ! Report

      You would be a brave man to write off the Storm from contenders just from the loss of Cronk. Brodie Croft, as understudy for Cronk for the last 2 yrs, is already better than average at half. Just look at Munster. From good Q Cup player to Qld and Aust rep within a couple of years due to the Storm influence. So having Smith inside, Munster and Slater outside, Croft will fill the gap very proficiently in season1 then expertly by 2 & 3. I will be surprised if they’re not top 4 in 2018.

      • December 28th 2017 @ 2:57pm
        Peter Phelps said | December 28th 2017 @ 2:57pm | ! Report

        They have known that they are on borrowed time with smith, slater, cronk for a few years and in fact they have probably held onto them longer than they would have anticipated. They knew about Cronk leaving for most of last season and bellamy wouldn’t be the man he is if he didn’t have this one well and truly covered. If that is croft, expect him to be firing on all cylinders by finals time. Roosters may get the minor prem in 2018 but I am sticking with Melbourne for the big one.

    • December 28th 2017 @ 1:33pm
      Garth Lambourn said | December 28th 2017 @ 1:33pm | ! Report

      Yes unfortunately they will be a force again. Their system is so good. Hate the Storm but can’t help admiring what they do and produce.

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