Craig Bellamy rated Sunday's grand final win over the Panthers the most meaningful of his coaching career given the unprecedented sacrifices by the Storm players and their loved ones.
Melbourne were forced to base themselves at a Sunshine Coast resort from late June onwards, with some of their families uprooting and joining them, as coronavirus cases spiked in Victoria.
That was after they spent time in Albury on the NSW-Victoria border before the Telstra Premiership's return from a two-month suspension in May.
Bellamy said the 26-20 victory at ANZ Stadium was testament to the team's desire to do their families and the whole of Victoria proud.
The side wore a 'V' on their jerseys in tribute to their home state.
"It's been difficult, it's been challenging, it's been different," Bellamy said.
"Even today, well, for me, it didn't really feel like a grand final because usually we come down three or four days before. We have fan days at home during the week and we didn't really have that the whole week.
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"For what our guys have been through, what their families have been through, I probably would put it up the top of the grand final wins that we've had."
Bellamy led Melbourne to the 2007 and '09 premierships, which were later stripped for salary cap breaches, before winning the '12 and '17 titles.
"I always thought 2012 was probably the special one after what happened in 2010 [salary cap]," he said.
"But this year, there's been some circumstances and situations where I thought some of the guys might have wanted to pack up and go home.
"Especially the ones there that haven't had their families in the bubble. But they haven't, they all stuck there through some difficult circumstances at times. And the other big thing has been the support of the families.
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"Hardly have they complained about anything and living in that bubble, away from home, has been difficult … That's what it was all about for us - the group with their families and playing for the people in Victoria.
"We got some real strength out of that."
Storm captain Cameron Smith summed up the magnitude of what the squad had to overcome.
"Anyone in this room ever lived out of their home for five months? Probably not," he said to a horde of reporters at a media conference.
"There's a lot of people in this country far worse off than we are, but I'm purely talking about this competition and what we've had to do to get here tonight, firstly, and then to win it – I couldn't be prouder of anyone in that [dressing] room.
"The coaching staff, performance staff, players, our reserve grade players that not many [of whom] played a game of football this year and all the families.
"I think along the way there was probably a handful [of people] that at times struggled. And that's understandable given the situation we were in. Never, ever in our lifetime have we ever gone through anything like this or been asked to do anything like this.
"We understood what we had to do and the reasons for it. We wanted this competition to continue, so that's why we made the move. That's why I say this is a special group."
The legendary 37-year-old hooker didn't want to compare his premiership triumphs but agreed that 2020's effort will hold deep significance.
Under biosecurity restrictions, the players couldn't embrace their families at full-time.
"We knew about those circumstances when we came down to Sydney last night," Smith said.
"We were out on that field tonight, but they've been through this entire season with us and going through these challenges."
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