Where are they now: Marcus Bai
Every now and then a player comes along that fans will forever hold in their hearts.
Marcus Bai is one of those.
The first player from Papua New Guinea to pull on the Melbourne Storm jersey, Bai played 144 games for the Club, scoring 70 tries over six seasons.
He remains loved in Melbourne to this day but back home in PNG he is worshipped like a God.
In his homeland is where you will often find Bai these days.
The 44-year-old works as a Community Liason Officer for Slade Industries. His role is to help facilitate joint-venture operations between the PNG land-owners and the Australian-based mining company.
After retiring from the Bradford Bulls in 2006, Bai returned home to Papua New Guinea where he started a farming plantation in the village where his mother and father lived.
After two years he then worked for a Labour Hire company before eventually landing in the mining industry.
Finding work post career has not been an issue for Bai and he knows how lucky he has been in that respect.
“I am just so grateful that John Ribot and Chris Anderson at Melbourne Storm and all those guys gave me an opportunity, I was very lucky to play there,” Bai said.
“The Club is well respected here in Papua New Guinea. Those days at Storm have helped me in my career now to chase opportunities.
“Opportunities opened up for me after we won the Grand Final in 1999, that win put me on the world map.
“If you don’t know Papua New Guinea, everybody from the Prime Minister to any person on the street knows who a rugby league player is.”
Bai endeared himself into purple hearts, inspiring the Storm crowd to rise as one every time he made one of his powerful, fearless runs.
It also helped that off the field he is one of the nicest people you will ever have the pleasure of meeting.
Fourteen years have now passed since Bai played for Storm but the Club still remains very close to his heart.
“It is always in the back of my mind,” Bai said.
“I still feel part of it. It still feels like a part of my life, probably 50-70% of my career was with Melbourne, I spent six years there.
“That is something I really enjoyed, to be able to start the Club and to win a Grand Final, the Club that made me somebody.”
In fact Bai does not have to go far to re-live those years in Melbourne.
He and his family currently live on the Gold Coast and his kids attend the same school where fellow Storm legend Matt Geyer now teaches.
The pair live less than a five minute drive from one another and remain close, united by that unforgettable day in 1999.
“It is something to have that friendship from 1999 to today. It is good for our kids to see that,” Bai said.”
“I was there a couple of hours after Matty’s kids were born and now those boys are six-foot-something and looking down on me!
“We annoy the crap out of each other every single week, we catch up a bit to say hello to Belinda and his kids.”
Now Bai is looking forward to keeping an eye on Justin Olam, another PNG prospect currently in Melbourne.
Melbourne is never far from Marcus Bai’s heart and it is safe to say the feeling is well and truly mutual.