Dear Members, I know you must be feeling the same as we all are today – desperately missing our Melbourne Storm fix and concerned about what the future may hold.
Today, we should be celebrating a great win in front of a big crowd in our opening home game against Penrith, to take our season record to 3-0 and keenly looking forward to two more home matches to come.
But instead, it seems like there is nothing but uncertainty in our world right now.
This past week has been the most difficult in our Club’s history. We are in a survival mode.
Since the NRL made the decision to suspend the 2020 season last week, we have had to adapt to the reality of the situation.
To be clear, our Club fully supports the decision to protect the health and wellbeing of players, staff, members and, especially, the most vulnerable in our community.
The challenges we now face as a Club are significant and far greater than the problems posed in 2010.
But as we did then, I’m confident that with your ongoing support we can overcome the challenges in front of us and emerge from this an even stronger and more connected Club than before.
In the past week, our dedicated Storm staff have been working long hours on a range of issues brought on by COVID-19.
Management and the board have been considering measures to help navigate us through this challenging period with the aim to position the Club to be stronger on return - whenever that is.
The full impact of this global pandemic will not be known for some time.
If it has not already, it will affect all of us at some stage – and we know that sadly there are many worse off than our Club.
While the measures we put in place some weeks ago to protect our people seemingly worked, the suspension of the competition and advice from government and health experts has meant we have needed to make some difficult decisions.
There are a number of changes that I wanted to update you on which will, regrettably, alter the service we can provide to you in the weeks and potentially months ahead.
Early last week we took the difficult decision to ask those within our football department, including our playing group, to spend a month away from the game.
Staff have also now been informed of changes that will affect their capacity to work for Storm in the short term.
We have had to make the agonising decision to ask around one-third of our staff to stand down in many roles that keep our Club operating each day.
This was not an easy decision to make but was done to give us the best possible chance of protecting the Club from even greater financial stress, to preserve jobs in the long run and to assist in the bounce-back when we get through this challenge.
These staff are as passionate as you are about Melbourne Storm and have been unwavering in their commitment to making us the best club in the NRL.
It was the most gut-wrenching day in my time at Storm, or in sport.
But whilst roles have been stood down, positions will be kept open with a view of those staff returning to work when normality resumes.
They are being given as much support as possible to help them through a very difficult time, through Club resources including our wellbeing and education staff and our club psychologist.
Those staff who remain in their positions have been asked to take an immediate 50% reduction in their pay, which will for some coincide with reduced working hours, to ensure we remain financially viable.
This includes head coach Craig Bellamy, General Manager Football Frank Ponissi and myself.
Our players are also finalising discussions with the NRL which will see a significant decrease in their wages.
At this stage, our playing group are more concerned about their younger teammates, or those on lower incomes supporting families.
I am immensely proud of all of our people at the Club and how they have reacted to a situation which is completely out of their control. Likewise, I’m grateful for your continued support.
We know people in the community are hurting, much like our staff, players and coaches. This pandemic is much bigger than our footy club, the NRL or sport more broadly.
But we also know this club - your club – plays a big part in your lives and this is why we are absolutely committed to ensuring Storm has many more years of thrilling our members and fans ahead.
We also know you have many unanswered questions about your membership for season 2020, but until we have certainty on the season, we ask for your patience and understanding.
As a club, we fully respect everyone’s personal circumstances are different and we will continue to work through scenarios and frameworks for dealing with the impact of this issue on our members.
To give you a glimmer of hope that we will see our Storm out there in action again this year, there is in-depth planning being undertaken now by the NRL.
If we are able to curb the threat of the virus sooner rather than later, we’ll be back at a time when we are usually gearing up for finals.
It gives us hope that 2020 isn’t wasted – any football is good football and a modified competition, with finals and State of Origin, is being worked up.
We just need some luck.
I know we will be back. I hope you will all be back with us.
Our team is focused on being ready to go when the competition resumes, knowing there will be a premiership to be won.
In the meantime, we all have our job to do in keeping Australia healthy.
We will do our best via our social and online channels to update you on the latest advice from the Government and health experts, but please continue to practice social distancing and basic hygiene matters.
Once again, thank you for your support and understanding through this period. Please take care of each other.