On behalf of all of us at Melbourne Storm, I’d like to wish you, your families, colleagues and friends a safe and festive Christmas and holiday period.
I’d like to thank all of you for joining us for the ride this year. Without your support, we couldn’t do what we do. It’s onwards and upwards again in 2020.
Firstly I’d like to acknowledge the off-season and pre-season to date. It’s certainly had its challenges with salary cap restraints and greater opportunities seeing the Club reluctantly farewell Will Chambers, Brodie Croft and Curtis Scott post-season.
The late timing of these departures unfortunately converged into 2021 player movements, with Suliasi Vunivalu and Tino Fa’asuamaleauai confirming that 2020 will be their farewell seasons at Storm.
Suli will forever be remembered at Storm, having been an integral part of the 2017 Premiership team, whilst Tino will be competing hard for a spot in our best 17.
They will continue to do the purple jersey proud in their final season with us, like many others before them.
Despite the player movement, an article on NRL.com this week highlighted our Club’s ability to retain and develop players as the best in the NRL in recent years. Of all 16 clubs, Storm had the highest player retention rate across a three-year period (2017-2019), ahead of Sydney Roosters, North Queensland, South Sydney and Canberra.
There is clearly a correlation between player retention and on-field success.
Our roster has continued to evolve over time, and with Head Coach Craig Bellamy, Football General Manager Frank Ponissi, and Head of Recruitment Paul Bunn leading the way, our management of this part of our business is in very capable hands.
The NRL’s player transfer system is clearly different from those more familiar with the AFL’s, with players able to secure their futures, either at their current or future clubs, well in advance of the end of the season ending.
This can be confusing for members and fans at times and is why I’m personally a supporter of effective transfer windows being implemented in our game.
However, for now, it is what it is and we manage it accordingly in line with the rules set by the game.
The future of our flying winger, Josh Addo-Carr, has been the subject of much recent media speculation so I’ll address that here.
Josh has made the Club aware of personal challenges that for the longer term will require him to relocate to be closer to his family in Sydney.
Josh is contracted to Storm until the end of 2021.
However, the Board yesterday morning instructed management to explore options for Storm to provide Josh with an early release from his playing contract, on compassionate grounds, at the end of the 2020 season.
To achieve this, Storm would be seeking fair value for Josh in return by way of a combination of the following:
- Transfer fee;
- Player swap, with the player being of commensurate standing ;
- Salary Cap relief for doing the right thing by the player and providing some extra support for Josh, not dissimilar to the recent scenario in the AFL with Tim Kelly at the Cats.
We believe this would be a fair outcome for all parties given the investment Storm has made in Josh and that we find ourselves on the cusp of the 2020 season.
Most importantly, it would allow Josh’s request to be met and we, and the game, would be able to continue to support him and his family in the transition back to Sydney.
Despite the challenges the NRL environment can at times throw up, it’s been a privilege and pleasure to again oversee significant growth and success on and off-field in 2019.
On reflection, great strides were taken this year:
- Minor Premiers by a three-game margin;
- Our fifth successive Preliminary Final appearance, falling agonisingly short of a fourth straight Grand Final berth;
- Cameron Smith’s incredible 400-game milestone, without doubt one of the biggest games in the history of our Club;
- 25,207 members, another record;
- Over 17 million television viewers and the largest social media audience of any professional sports team based in Melbourne, of any code;
- Our Super Netball franchise, Sunshine Coast Lightning, falling painfully short in this year’s Grand Final, their third successive appearance in only their third year;
- 19 International representatives across rugby league and netball, as well as a Netball World Cup winning coach and captain in New Zealand’s Noeline Taurua and Laura Langman;
- Six State of Origin representatives including debuts for Dale Finucane and Christian Welch;
- An emergence of new, exciting faces, like Ryan Papenhuyzen and Justin Olam.
Our NRL team, with Craig Bellamy again overseeing it in his 18th season as head coach, has been training incredibly hard over the pre-season so far.
Like most of us, they’ll enjoy a quick break to recharge, then it’s back into it in early January as we build towards to start of the season in mid-March.
We wish them luck, but with a strong core of the playing group from 2019 again with us in 2020, including 15 of the preliminary final 17, we have a great starting position. Watch this space with a couple of nuggets to be added yet to the list.
Meanwhile, our Lightning squad is intact, under a talented new head coach in Kylee Byrne.
We should all feel confident about both of our teams’ ability to challenge for premierships in the years to come.
Again, I hope you have a wonderful Christmas and holiday period and I look forward to seeing you around the Club in 2020.
I hope next year is a great one for you and your families.