What a season 2016 has been. It was a proud year for our Club, as we experienced some unforgettable moments throughout an NRL season full of excitement from start to finish.
On the field our team performed incredibly well, winning the Minor Premiership for the first time since 2011 and reaching the NRL Grand Final for the sixth time in 11 years. Whist the result did not go our way on the night, there are still plenty of positives to reflect on.
Our football department led from the front, winning 19 games during the home and away season despite having to endure one the biggest injury lists in the Club’s history. Cooper Cronk proved why he is one of the greatest players of the modern era, winning the Dally M Player of the Year award for the second time in four years. He also became just the 25th player to reach 300 NRL games and for the first time in NRL history, two 300-gamers played in the same side when Smith and Cronk ran out for our Preliminary final against the Raiders. The 2016 season also saw several younger players take a big step forward in their development, especially Suliasi Vunivalu who remarkably became the NRL’s leading try scorer in his debut season.
It was a record-breaking year for the Club off the field as well. For the first time ever we had four consecutive home crowds of 20,000-plus descended on AAMI Park, transforming it into a sea of purple pride. The Club also smashed its membership record, reaching 17,518, and for that I sincerely thank-you. Without your incredible support none of the on-field achievements I mentioned above would have been possible and we look forward to having you back in 2017 as we march on to reach our goal of 20,000 members. The Club was also delighted to re-sign Tigerair to a five-year sponsorship extension as well as re-committing with major partners Crown Resorts and others, which has further improved our off-field position.
Rugby league is taking significant steps forward with the game’s participation rate in Victoria reaching an all-time high. We are working closely with the NRL and NRL Victoria and have established a strong relationship with Touch Football Victoria and Touch Football Australia to ensure we are continuing to grow the game of rugby league in this state. We are also working with the State Government to secure a site that will become a rugby league centre of excellence – an exciting prospect for any young Victorian aspiring to pull on the purple jersey.
I would also like to confirm that after its tremendous success in 2016, Storm will once again be taking part in the NRL Double Header next season. The event this year attracted a sold-out crowd of 50,000 fans, the highest non-finals crowd for the year and the largest home crowd in our Club’s history. More details on the 2017 Double Header will be confirmed once the NRL fixture is released so stay tuned.
While on the topic of 2017, I would like to inform our members that the Club has made the decision to not take part in the World Club Challenge in the UK next February. While the tournament would be a good opportunity to showcase Storm on a global stage, our number one priority is to ensure the team has the best possible preparation heading into the next NRL season. We believe flying to and from the UK just three weeks out from Round 1 is not ideal, especially considering the involvement of several of our players in the Four Nations tournament later this season as well as the World Cup at the end of next year. Storm will instead be playing two trial matches in Australia as well as the Auckland Nines in early February.
The book might be closing on 2016 but the hard work never stops. The team is determined to go one better next season and that is what we are working towards every day, however we cannot do it without your support. It goes without saying that our members are the best in the world, your passion and dedication makes a real difference, not only on game day but throughout the year.
To renew or join the Storm family in 2017, please contact our friendly membership staff on 1300 786 767 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Enjoy the summer, be safe and I look forward to seeing you back at AAMI Park as we cheer on the boys for an even bigger and better season in 2017.
CEO - Melbourne Storm