Pain re­mains as Storm come in from cold

Townsville Bulletin - - Bizfi Nd -

FOR some like Billy Slater, the pain will never go away.

But at AAMI Park tonight, Slater and his Mel­bourne team­mates can fi­nally turn the page on one of the most tur­bu­lent pe­ri­ods in rugby league’s his­tory when they re-en­ter the race for the NRL Pre­mier­ship.

For the first time in 324 days, the Storm will be treated as equals when they run out against Manly, fi­nally mov­ing on from the heart­break of the salary cap scan­dal which cost them two pre­mier­ships and the chance to com­pete for the 2010 ti­tle.

The enor­mity of the oc­ca­sion is not lost on Slater, who along with Cooper Cronk, skip­per Cameron Smith and the de­parted Greg Inglis were served up as key play­ers in the drama. ‘‘ It’s go­ing to be a big oc­ca­sion for us as a club, it’s go­ing to be very ex­cit­ing,’’ Slater said of the re­match of the 2007 and 2008 grand fi­nal com­bat­ants.

‘‘ We’ve got a lot of new play­ers in our side ( and) for the sup­port­ers who stuck by us last year through a tough pe­riod it’s a good chance for them to come out and sup­port you.

‘‘ We are play­ing for points now so it’s back on.’’

But while last year is gone, cer­tainly not for­got­ten.

‘‘ The play­ers who went through last year, it’s al­ways go­ing to be there, you can’t just for­get about that sort of stuff,’’ Slater said.

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‘‘ We tried to put it be­hind us in the last game last year, this is a to­tally new group of play­ers.

‘‘ We’re at the same club, we’re still striv­ing to win the pre­mier­ship this year and are still striv­ing to be the best squad that we can be.

‘‘ Last year was last year ... it’s all about the fu­ture.’’

And this cer­tainly is a fu­ture for the Storm.

The big four is now the big three with Inglis join­ing South Syd­ney, while main­stays such as Brett Finch, Ryan Hoff­man, Jeff Lima, Ai­den Tol­man and Brett White have moved on.

Into their place come the likes of Beau Cham­pion, Troy Thompson

dif­fer­ent and Jesse Bromwich, while young­ster Gareth Wid­dop will get first crack at Finch’s old No. 6 jumper.

And what bet­ter way for the Storm to get back into the swing of things than against Manly.

The Sea Ea­gles were the last side to take on Mel­bourne be­fore the salary cap scan­dal erupted, with Manly win­ning 18-16 at Eti­had Sta­dium in round six last year.

But there is no ques­tion the fierce ri­valry be­tween the two clubs re­volves around the back-to-back de­ciders.

’’... We have a heathy ri­valry with Manly ... we’ve played in two grand fi­nals against each other and it’s one apiece,’’ Slater noted.

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