Almanac Rugby League – NRL Round 25: Melbourne v Cronulla – Storm rises like Lazarus – again

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….


  1. John Harms says

    Enjoyed the yarn A. Else. You’ve nailed it. Somme ripper descriptions. (You’re sounding like a rugby league writer) C. Smith is a marvel. On the TV he seemed to show zero panic levels, or even negative panic levels. Watch that last three minutes again. It is sensational.

    The Storm are great to watch.

    Many chances in this year’s NRL. Any thoughts on who wins it? I’m interested in the Cowboys and the Raiders (the weirdest side in Australian sport) but they are both going to finish bottom half of the eight.

  2. “…all rip, tear, fart and bustle.” Gold.

  3. Andrew Ellis says

    Thanks for the kind words John; it was a game to inspire an artistic outburst.
    It’s truly mouth watering to consider the first week of the NRL finals. Just imagine Des leading the Bulldogs against his old charges from Manly, a Queensland epic between the Broncos and Cowboys, two real hard nuts in Raiders and Sharks and then an epic match-up of Inglis v Slater as the Bunnies tackle the Storm.
    Much as I hate to say it, the Eagles are coming good at the right time of the season, but lose the first week and they could be in real trouble.
    I’d say any man putting money on a winner at this stage of the season is a man with too much money!

  4. I’m a Sharks fan and, unlike Bellamy and your man Bob, i still expected we’d lose right until the final dagger – Cronulla are the best at snatching defeat from the jaws (no pun) of victory…but they do match up well against Murdoch’s chicken-winging rorters. Unfortunately, though, there’s no evidence to suggest a finals culture could rescue the hapless Sharkies…mirroring the Great White Shark when it comes to the crunch!

  5. I was watching the game last night and switched it for 4 Corners with five minutes remaining!

    Could some knowledgeable NRL fans please confirm my suspicion that an indifferent Melbourne public has had one of the all-time great teams on our doorstep for a decade and have just not realised it? I’ve enjoyed watching them on the box but must confess that I’ve never seen them live.

    Is it just me or is this a classic case of pearls before swine?

  6. John Harms says

    Sorry Andrew Ellis, I misread your name. I thought you were one of our Essendon writers – Andrew Else – turning his hand to rugby league.

    My apologies.

    Loved your piece, anyway.

  7. Andrew Ellis says

    Stainless, you’re absolutely correct in your assumption. When you consider for several years we had Slater, Inglis, Smith and Cronk running around on the paddock at the same time it is remarkable more people haven’t come to watch them live. The Storm has carved a place in the hearts of Melbournians, but they’ve been unable to convert it to bums on seats.
    AAMI Park is a gem for your first taste of the great game and I’d thoroughly recommend you get down and try it.

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