Pain remains as Storm come in from cold
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.
‘‘ 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.