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Why has Xavier Coates signing with the Storm hit such a nerve?

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Expert
11th May, 2021
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4123 Reads

The depths of some footy fans’ dislike for the Melbourne Storm never ceases to amaze me.

I can understand why the Storm aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. In fact as a Parramatta Eels supporter I hated the Storm for many, many years. Part of it was due to their salary cap breaches in the late 2000s. Many of you will also recall that Parramatta lost a grand final to a Storm team that was in breach of its salary cap obligations, which planted some deep seeds of bitterness within me.

But the salary cap breaches weren’t the only reason I disliked the Storm. Another part of it was jealousy. I was jealous that a club existed that could have such prolonged and ongoing success while the club that I supported remained perennial cellar dwellers.

People will proffer many reasons as to why they don’t like the Storm. Apparently, they have destroyed rugby league through the introduction of wrestling and the grapple. Others don’t – and will never – like Cameron Smith, who doesn’t even play for the Storm anymore. Some say they play boring and mechanical footy – those people I encourage to perhaps watch a Storm game; this is a team that is anything but mechanical.

But the response to the news that Xavier Coates had signed with the Storm for the 2022 and 2023 seasons was met with some odd responses.

Phil Gould tweeted: “So the Premiers get to buy the best player from the Wooden Spoon team. Yep. That’s a great system. Been saying it for 20 years.”

I’m really unclear about the point Gould is trying to make here.

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Is it that the current premiers have signed a player from the 2020 wooden spooners and that this shouldn’t be permitted? Is it that he doesn’t think clubs are being appropriately rewarded for developing players (I do think there is some truth to that)? Is it something else?

Let’s unpack the Coates signing a little further.

Out of curiosity, how many players at the level of Coates can you name that the Storm have signed in recent years?

When Josh Addo-Carr joined the Storm his career was just beginning. Players like Harry Grant, Cameron Munster, Ryan Papenhuyzen and Nicho Hynes are talent that the Storm have identified and nurtured. Grant was a standout in Queensland Cup for several years. I still find it baffling that no other club identified him.

I would even go further here. Not only have the Storm not been a club that poaches well-established players, but the Storm are a club that take chances on many players that other clubs showed little interest in – players like Nate Myles and George Jennings.

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The Storm are not a club in the habit of poaching talented players from other clubs. They develop the talent themselves.

In fact it’s one of the reasons the Storm are such an exceptional side. Craig Bellamy has an incredible gift for identifying talent and coaching players to do a particular role. We all can think of examples where an average player has joined the Storm and has improved significantly.

So I’m not sure why the Coates signing has hit such a nerve.

Players move around all the time. It is part of the game.

Players have only a limited career, and I do not blame them for wanting to maximise their earning potential while they can. I also don’t blame players for wanting to leave a club that has had limited success for a couple of seasons for a club that is extremely successful.

When James Tedesco signed with the Sydney Roosters I don’t remember it being met with such derision. Wests Tigers fans were disappointed, but I don’t recall questions being asked about why a good team should be able to sign a player from a poor team.

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Additionally, it is problematic to make it as black and white as the 2020 premiers signing a player from wooden spoon team. This simplicity ignores the challenges that the Brisbane Broncos have been facing over the last couple of years.

For a long time the Broncos were the Queensland powerhouse. Players would make a decision to join Brisbane because of the club’s calibre, and my understanding is that there were also players who made the decision to remain at Brisbane for less money because of the type of club it was.

You cannot blame players for wanting to move on from a club that has struggled over recent seasons.

Coates is not the first player of note that the Broncos have lost recently. This may be something Broncos fans aren’t used to, but it is absolutely normal and part of the game. You cannot keep all your players.

Rather than focus on the Storm and how they were able to sign Coates, we should be asking: why did the Broncos have so much trouble keeping him?

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