Melbourne Storm play in jumpers so dark a shade of Navy blue they’re just about black. They should be in all black. Because that would indicate how bad–ass they are.
And not just jumpers and socks – sleeves, leggings, gloves, even masks. Full–face balaclavas, no eyeholes.
Black, job lot, like gimps or Darth Vaders or weird black wraiths. Absolutely bad–ass.
Storm are the baddest–ass bad–asses in this man’s National Rugby League. Only the premiers can hold a candle.
Bold statement 80 minutes in?
Normally one would agree. But these purple people are the exception. They are exceptional.
The Brisbane Broncos played – or one should say, “defended” – exceptionally well to lose by just ten points against a machine that knew all the possession, territory and pertinent match marker.
Brisbane can indeed take plenty out of it. Their jumpers are the orange of Cheezel dust, yet they did not crumble, despite having every excuse against a Storm machine equal parts bash and dash.
My they were good, Storm. Consider: season opener, Thursday night, it was like they’d never stopped playing since the grand final in October. They won 22–12. Owned it all bar maybe four minutes in second period.
On the telecast we had Channel Nine’s talking heads in jackets and t–shirts, like extras in The Sopranos. Can’t cop to the look. Just an opinion.
Also: No Rabs Warren? Do like Matt Thompson, a fine caller. But no Rabs Warren?
Elsewhere you’ve gotta like Freddy and Joey and dear old Fat Man. And though I flicked once to my man Vossy on Fox, and there’s not a lot between ’em, even with the ads for reality filth, Channel Nine nudges Fox League for mine.
Kick–off! And everyone thundered about and bumped uglies as rugby league players are wont to do.
Been a long, vexed summer. Great to see them getting into it.
And so we got into it.
Nelson Asofa-Solomona! The prop blocked out the moon and setup the first try with a big flicky speculator unbecoming a monster of Frankenstein.
Brisbane didn’t hold the ball until the eighth minute. Meanwhile, they made 30 tackles, Storm made none. It was a ratio they would know well.
Jimmy The Jet went off with a dud back. My Foxtel went all choppy in the crazy storm, like aliens were taking over the internet as they did in that film Independence Day starring Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum and Harry Connick Jr as “Captain Jimmy Wilder”.
And Storm just kept on comin’. Bombing away. It’s not Bellyball or what have you. It’s hardball. And it’s largely perfect. Drilled, intense. They bash and bash and bash. They run diamond–hard lines.
Playing against them hurts. Brandon Smith is a very Storm player: hard, straight, repeat.
And the Broncos blew like bellows. Within 20 minutes they’d done 80 per cent of the tackling. And they coughed up the ball with their lungs.
Munster bombed and Darius Boyd caught it, and you could hear Cam Smith through the ref’s microphone: “Don’t kick it straight to him!”
Suliasi Vunivalu rushed Jack Bird to protect an overlap, and snapped him. Bird spilled the pill, rangy Curtis Scott bolted 70.
A try was disallowed. Melbourne dropped one over the line. Brisbane held on like a man on a rope in the rapids.
Josh Addo–Carr has lost the beard, kept a thin, Clark Gable moustache. Not a heinous error. But an error none the less.
Billy Slater’s replacement at fullback, Jahrome Hughes – the Lord Ted Goodwin replacing Graeme Langlands of his time – sported a moustache equal parts Danny Glover, Lionel Richie and Smokin’ Joe Kilroy.
And we will speak no more of it.
Brisbane! Got the ball for a bit. Not long, mind. Just a bit. And Storm, fresh, punished them.
No way through there, Bubba, or there. Storm’s discipline, precision in D reminded one of a very annoying kids’ book that says “You can’t go under them, you can’t go over them, you have to go through them.”
There was no way through. Thirty minutes in, Brisbane hadn’t played the ball within Storm’s 20 metres.
Matt Gillett made 27 tackles in the first half hour. Brisbane were down by ten with five minutes to play in the half. Only two things were going to happen: Storm score or the hooter blew time.
Brisbane did record their first tackle in Storm’s 20 (in the 38th minute). Couple plays later their second.
But that, friends, was that.
Half time and Clive Palmer used miners’ money to frighten people about China. I went on a golf tour their last week, ate some of the great Chinese food. Clive’s been sending me text messages. He can go off and make bad rough love with himself.
Back into it and Storm’s Fijian hitman Tui Kamikamica hit men, before Kenny Bromwich plunged over.
And always, in the middle, scheming, moving and man–manoeuvring, was Cameron Smith. He may never stop. He may play until he’s 47. Thousand games. Named an Immortal while still playing? Maybe it’s a plan.
Corey Oates! The rangy big wing–horse bashed over out wide after some tidy work by his insiders. Wasn’t Oates’ first touch but it felt like it. Jamayne Isaako thumped over some frozen rope. And the Broncos were within ten, 20 to play.
Jesse Bromwich freed an arm and popped a beautiful pass for … Corey Oates! Who ran 40m. Isaako added two.
And Brisbane, somehow, after quite a bit of flogging were back in it like they’d never been away.
And they still only had those two tackles in Storm’s 20.
And then: redemption!
Alas for Brisbane it was Jesse Bromwich who made up for his earlier misadventure by making a hard break, throwing a dummy that Darius Boyd bought like a Big Mac Meal, and sliding over from a few metres out.
And that, sports fans, was that.
And you thought: How good is Melbourne Storm?
And you thought: Among the very best, clearly, again.
And you thought: How come heavy rain affects a satellite feed, does it rain in space?
And you thought: Idiot, there’s no rain in space, didn’t you just watch you that movie about Neil Armstrong on the plane back from China?
And you thought: I did, yes.
And you thought: Go to bed you fool.
And you thought: Good idea, goodnight.
And as you put a head on your pillow you thought: Welcome back, greatest game of all rugby league. Welcome back.