Storm v Broncos: a one-sided rivalry forged in fire of 2006 NRL grand final | Nick Tedeschi

It is easy to understand why Brisbane cannot stand the sight of Melbourne, who have used their blueprint for success to whip them at nearly every corner

Amazingly, it has been 11 years since the Brisbane Broncos have tasted premiership success. For a powerhouse club that tasted triumph so early and so often, it has been a lifetime.

The famous 15-8 win over the Melbourne Storm in the 2006 grand final won’t top any lists of greatest title deciders but it does mark the point where the great Broncos wave that swept over rugby league in the 1990s and early 2000s began to recede.

It was not only a famous grand final upset. It was the game that steeled the Storm, showing Craig Bellamy and the core of players that would become greats of the code and the centre of Melbourne’s incredible dynasty the pain of defeat.

It was a feeling Bellamy, Cameron Smith, Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk would never forget. From that match, that single defeat, they knew what was required to win. A decade of success broken only by a salary cap scandal has followed.

It is a success that can very much trace its roots back to the Broncos. The Melbourne Storm we all know would not be who they are if it wasn’t for the legacy built by the Broncos in their formative years.

It should come as no surprise that the Broncos blueprint was used in Melbourne’s fledgling years. Former Broncos CEO John Ribot was the club’s founder and driving force. Ex-Broncos centre Chris Johns became chief executive. Brisbane premiership player Glenn Lazarus became Melbourne’s inaugural captain.

Perhaps the most important link came a half-decade after though, when the club sacked its second coach Mark Murray after a disastrous 9-14-1 season. Broncos assistant Bellamy was tapped to replace him. Melbourne have never again won less than 13 games in a year.

Bellamy had learnt at the knee of Wayne Bennett. He had seen the Broncos system inside and out when the club had no peer. There is almost no question now though that the student has become the master. Bellamy holds a 21-10 all-time record over Bennett, including 21 of the last 28 meetings. Bennett has not been at any dud clubs either.

The comparison with Bennett should not be understated though, particularly when considering organisational stability. Bellamy has run the Storm since 2003. No other current NRL coach has held their position longer than Shane Flanagan, who was hired in 2010 but still missed a year through suspension. It is easy to show patience with a genius but Melbourne have always backed Bellamy to the hilt when other elite coaches have come and gone from clubs, Des Hasler being the latest example.

Recruitment and retention strategy was another Storm pillar ripped straight from the Broncos playbook. There was a focus on finding the best in Queensland, a belief in the toughness and commitment found north of the Tweed. They could tap into passion, heart, desire, work ethic. And being out of the spotlight, they could make Melbourne as Queensland as they could. Cameron Smith, Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk all could have lobbed at the Broncos but Melbourne got in first.

It is easy to understand why the Broncos hate the Storm. They get whipped at nearly every corner. Melbourne have won 22 of the last 27 matches played between the two sides. They met in the finals every year from 2004 to 2009 and every year bar that 2006 grand final, the Storm came out victorious. Three times over that run they won by 17 or more. They also won on the siren in 2008 as the Broncos thought they had shaken the curse. One-sided hidings have been commonplace. Five of Brisbane’s eight biggest losses have been dished out by the Storm.

The motivation for the Storm though, it goes back a decade, to that one game, that one defeat. Nearly everyone who was at the Storm at the time will call it their most disappointing moment. The likes of Cameron Smith and Billy Slater were already playing with a chip on their shoulder after being snubbed by their home-state team. Now they had been handed their most painful defeat by the same club.

Melbourne’s only redress has been to hand out a decade-long punishment, beating down and embarrassing the Broncos at every opportunity. More guttural need than strategic want, it has been wildly successful, each hammering feeding the thirst for another.

And that is the difference in this rivalry, as one-sided as any in the NRL. Brisbane’s hate is mental. Melbourne’s need to beat Brisbane is visceral, born out of respect and fuelled by the pain of one night.


Nick Tedeschi

The GuardianTramp

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