Every NRL season since the dawn of Bellamy, we have posed the same question: What will stop the Melbourne Storm?
Via the ABC.
What would prompt the decline of a team that has, since coach Craig Bellamy's appointment in 2003, played finals in all but their 2010 walk-of-shame season and contested nine of the past 15 grand finals?
It wasn't the revelation of that infamous second set of contracts and the subsequent loss of stars such as Greg Inglis; it wasn't the retirement of Billy Slater or the defection of Cooper Cronk; it has not been the ageing of Cameron Smith.
So we shrugged our shoulders and figured the only thing that would stop the Storm would be some kind of plague or pestilence.
Yet after consecutive backs-to-the-walls victories over last season's grand finalists the Sydney Roosters and Canberra Raiders, it is apparent the dislocation and distraction caused by COVID-19 are not causing this dynasty to crumble.
Naturally, the customary critics bemoaned a supposed Melbourne knock-on late in the pulsating victory over the Roosters; they begrudged the Storm's good fortune when the Raiders lost star hooker Josh Hodgson to a serious knee injury and had another player controversially sin-binned.
"Bloody Melbourne Storm" is not just an indignant expression for some fans of rival NRL clubs. It is a way of life.
Even after those 17 years of sustained excellence, the penny hasn't dropped for those who wilfully ignore the blindingly obvious — the Storm's success is a triumph of impeccable preparation.
Not that even the Storm was fully prepared for COVID-19.
Storm chief executive Dave Donaghy recalls conversations with club doctor Jason Chan in January as news of the pandemic broke.
"It's not like we knew what was going to happen," Donaghy said.
"But we knew which direction things were going." Donaghy said the Storm hierarchy only had a "heightened sense of awareness" about the pandemic in early March. This prompted the club to charter flights for their first two matches in Sydney before the NRL had suggested the precaution.