By Andrew Ellis
You know things are going bad when the team’s padre can be seen leaving the ground before the final siren.
Apologies to Father Bob for giving up on the Melbourne Storm in their round 25 match against Cronulla, but seriously, who leaves a game when you have three of the game’s finest in your line-up?
At least Father Bob had the good grace to acknowledge his faux pas and tweeted as such from the car park at AAMI Stadium as he heard the raucous cheers of just under 13,000 loyal fans celebrating the latest in a season of Lazarus-like comebacks.
This was a game Storm had no right to win. Since seeing their first home game back at the old graveyard, never has a team representing the purple haze been so delinquent in their ball security.
And it wasn’t the kids doing it, either. Seasoned Origin veterans such as Hinchliffe and Quinn were culprits, and we basically held our breath every time the tree-trunk thighs of big Sika ran onto a face ball.
Billy, as is his wont, drew gasps not for his audacious leaps to defuse would-be goal line bombs, but for his laconic passing from dummy half while camped on his own try line.
Even when Sisa Waqa set up the final try everyone in the crowd knew that playing the short side was clearly the highest risk given the huge overlap the team had created to his left.
Clearly, this was not a game for people looking to minimise their substance intake.
Thank the gods for Cameron Smith and Gareth Widdop.
The captain played another memorable captain’s knock, once again resembling Melbourne Storm’s version of the Artful Dodger.
He seems to creep from dummy half, almost pickpocketing time and space from a hapless defensive line unsure of whether to hold back, rush forward to be sucked into an offside penalty or be left groping for air as the Storm skipper bounces off and around them to grab another easy five metres.
Widdop, on the other hand, is all rip, tear, fart and bustle. Like Slater, it’s his dynamism that draws your eye to the Storm pivot. And his uncanny left-foot step is magic. It was his remarkable shift to his right that created the disallowed try at 14-10, not any mirage of shepherding. (I’m sure I heard Robbie Farah’s jaw dropping all the way from Balmain as the red “no try’ sign flashed up)
All we hope now is that is the catalyst for Storm to revert to a high risk/high reward style of play. With nothing to lose they played as if their lives depended on it. And rugby league was truly the winner.
At least those of us who had the faith to stay for the full 80 minutes….