Inside the Storm's 21-year domination of the Broncos

It is a rugby league rivalry with a rich history but from the Broncos' angle their record against the Melbourne Storm in the past 21 years is more of an anomaly.

The Broncos have played the Melbourne Storm 47 times since 1998 and won just 13. The Storm remain the only club in the NRL with a winning record against Brisbane. 

Melbourne's 15-8 grand final loss to the Broncos in 2006 no doubt still sticks in the craw for the Storm but since then Brisbane have lost all four finals played against Melbourne.

Former Storm five-eighth Scott Hill was at the club from its inception in 1998. He said there was an in-built determination in every player to have worn the purple jersey to beat Brisbane right from the outset.

"John Ribot started us and he started the Broncos. Along with Chris Johns, who had won titles as a Bronco, they were the guys who created the opportunity for us in Melbourne to wear the purple jumper so Brisbane has always been a battleground for us," Hill said.

"For us we always had that respect for them to prove that the club they had created was better than the one they came from. It was never talked about like that, but there has probably been that internal drive from the start to be at our best against Brisbane.

Scott Hill in action against the Broncos in 2004.
Scott Hill in action against the Broncos in 2004. ©NRL Photos

"Our first coach Chris Anderson never enjoyed playing the Broncos and he built that competitiveness within us. Then when Craig Bellamy came to us in 2003 after five years at the Broncos we always played for him to let him know that he had come to a better place.

"I was there for nine years and I can't count many games where I lost against the Broncos… although there is one [in the 2006 grand final] I remember clearly more than anything… but that is something I have got to live with."

When the Storm play the Sharks and Sea Eagles there is a genuine dislike for each other and the Melbourne players and coaching staff all understand it is a fierce rivalry.

There is not a loathing of Brisbane as such these days, perhaps because of the lopsided nature of recent results. When the Storm started in 1998 the Broncos were the benchmark team and Hill said that competitive desire to test themselves against the best had endured ever since.

"Now 20 years later who are the benchmark of the NRL and have been for the last 10 years? It used to be the Brisbane Broncos but now it would be fair to say it is the Melbourne Storm," Hill said.

"There is no team that we respect more than the Broncos. It is like a pure game of respect. Some of the closest mates I played rep footy with were Broncos players. I always catch up with Gorden Tallis, and Locky [Darren Lockyer] I am pretty close with."

Bellamy has been on the cusp of coaching the Broncos on several occasions since leaving in 2003. There has always been a sense that he saves something special for Brisbane. It was a point made by Brisbane coach Anthony Seibold, who spent three seasons under Bellamy as an assistant, when he was asked if he ever got the feeling the Storm v Broncos game was a special one, especially for the Melbourne coach.

"Especially for the coach. I felt that," Seibold responded with a chuckle.

"I'm not sure [why]. You'd have to ask Bellyache but I know he gets up for the Broncos games."

If that is the case then Bellamy was having none of it ahead of Friday night's clash with the Broncos at Suncorp Stadium.

"I'd be disappointed if that was the case, if I coach my best only when we play the Broncos," Bellamy said on Thursday after arriving in Brisbane.

"I quite enjoy coming up here, especially being in Melbourne's wet weather this week. I don't think I coach any different in any week to be quite honest. I am pretty systematic in how I go about my job. It is routine for me. Every game is only worth two points. I'd like to think I try and do my job each and every week and stick to the systems. That is what I want my players to do.”

So much have the Storm enjoyed playing at Suncorp Stadium that they have not lost to the Broncos at the venue since 2009.

Bellamy highlighted other reasons why the Storm, often tagged as Queensland's "fourth team", had such a superb record.

"We have a lot of Queenslanders in our team and in our club," he said.

"They all really enjoy coming back and most of their families come along to the game and they get to see their families. We seem to quite enjoy playing at Suncorp. It is probably the best rugby league stadium in the world."

The Storm's best players over the years have been Maroons such as Cameron Smith, Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk, for whom Suncorp Stadium is a second home.

Melbourne's 1999 premiership-winning captain Glenn Lazarus, who also won two premierships with Brisbane, said those above-mentioned players all had extra incentive to beat the Broncos. They keep alive the quest for excellence against Brisbane that Hill said was there from the start.

"It is just a fact that Smith, Cronk and Slater all came from Queensland and they all wanted to beat the superior team in Queensland, which was the Broncos," Lazarus said.

Smith supported the Broncos as a youth and has also been close to signing with Brisbane multiple times. 

In an interview with NRL.com ahead of his 400th NRL game it was no surprise he listed the 2008 elimination semi-final at Suncorp Stadium, where Melbourne beat Brisbane 16-14 in the final seconds, as a favourite of his stellar club career. 

As for who will win on Friday night, Lazarus laid out clearly what the Broncos are up against.

"You know what you are going to get with Melbourne. They have lost three games this year – two by one point and one by just two points – so the style they play and the intensity they play with means they are always in the contest," Lazarus said.

"The Broncos are going to have to play out of their skin and be at their very best to beat them."