In our shoes: Mel Hoffman
Hi there, Mel Hoffman here, Ryan's wife. If you're new to the Storm, I used to write a blog for the website but then I had babies and my brain forgot how to multitask and also how to write words good and stuff.
But I'm finished having babies now so I'm back for a bit of a cameo, the topic of which is: Melbourne Storm.
Yikes. Where to start?
The Storm is an organisation that has a reputation. Of success, professionalism, tenacity, innovation, and occasionally, of drama. It got me to thinking, what can I say about the Melbourne Storm? What is this club to me personally? The answer was simple. This club is human. Or more specifically, a bunch of humans. Always has been, always will be.
The problem is our players can seem superhuman because of what they do. Which may trick us into believing that they are not like you and me, but let me assure you, it's just the torso that looks like a GI Joe doll. Everything else is absolutely human - unique, vulnerable, fallible and full of dreams, desires, fears and regrets.
They come with a human package - a family. Partners, children, mums, dads, sisters, brothers, you name it. These people play a critical role in the decisions they make, too. For example, when I read negative feedback about a player choosing to leave a club I am struck by this tendency we have to ignore the human side of our players. I defy any person, faced with a major career decision, to honestly say that they would put the interests of their colleagues and public stakeholders ahead of the interests of their own family. It doesn't happen, and neither should it.
Speaking of negative feedback, I admire the Melbourne Storm approach to rise above it and to never to fight back because supposedly, in this brave new world of unfettered and relentless public opinion, you cannot win. Personally, I'm not sure I'm ready to admit defeat. I've thought a lot about this over the years and I have come up with one semblance of a plan: we could start a rugby league fan fiction society. Right? That way, when certain members of the public and media feel the need to write fanciful stories, at least there'll be an appropriate forum for it.
There is a tendency for players to insist that things said by journalists and in social media do not affect them, which is only sometimes the truth. There are times when they are affected and so is their whole family unit. They might be sending their children off to school, anxious about whether they will get a hard time about the latest story in the news. They might be dodging phone calls from Great Aunty Doris because they just can't explain to any more elderly relatives that the internet lies sometimes. Now I know what you're thinking - they signed up for this. It comes with the territory. But their partners didn't. Their children didn't. Great Aunty Doris definitely didn't. They are simply part and parcel of the player as a human.
Fortunately for us as members of the Melbourne Storm family, this is a club that recognises this humanity and understands the need for players and their families to have a community. Especially seeing as we're so often displaced from our family, due to the satellite nature of this club. I'm often asked whether we're a close group and the short answer is yes. We're people, with shared interests, shared joys and shared, unique anxieties so of course we gravitate to each other for camaraderie and friendship. Are we all best friends, going on weekend shopping trips, singing and dancing Brady-Bunch-style on the escalators at the local Westfield? Nup. Not even close. We're different. We all have different personalities, different approaches to being part of football and we all have different responsibilities and concerns away from football. But we're there for each other when we need to be and we recognise the need to band together for the sake of the team's success.
So, say what you will about Melbourne Storm, the reputation, the aura, the records and the history books. From where I sit, all this was created by the humans that have passed through its doors and these humans continue to be the very best and most valuable thing about it.
All that said, we do need to acknowledge player press conference appearances. I'm 95% those dudes are humanoid droids. Nobody actually uses that many of the same football clichés in everyday speech. Hopefully they get their software updated sometime soon.