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How a Billy Slater text message inspired the revival of the ‘Big V’

It was not long into Melbourne Storm’s move to its Sunshine Coast hub last year when the phone of every player buzzed simultaneously.

It was club football boss Frank Ponissi, forwarding to the players’ WhatsApp group a text message he’d received from Storm legend and coaching consultant Billy Slater in locked-down Melbourne.

“In the first couple of weeks the players weren’t doing anything bad, but on their social media they were posting photos of themselves around the pool and things like that,” Ponissi said.

“Bill just sent me a text saying something like: ‘I know the boys are enjoying the sunshine but just be conscious of all the supporters and members back in Melbourne because we’re doing it really tough back here.’ “He asked that whenever players did media, just to remind them about people back in Melbourne. “It was a pretty powerful and inspirational message so I passed that on to the rest of the group and it made a real impact immediately.”

When Ponissi sent every player Slater’s message, he prefaced it with a message of his own. “I said when I forwarded it: ‘Boys, we know how glass half-full and positive Bill is, but you can tell from his text things are pretty grim back in Melbourne, so we need to come up with something to show we’re playing for them’.” 

The message hit the mark. The playing group and the coaches met together in their Twin Waters hub to go over ideas before landing on a winner.

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