On Saturday night the Melbourne Storm
cemented its place at the top of the NRL premiership – and as a serious grand
final contender – but did so before yet another poor, even miserable crowd. The official attendance posted for the
Storm v Roosters game at Olympic Park in Melbourne was
8,491. On television it looked a lot less!

Yesterday on 2GB, Steven Roach, who called
the game with Andrew Moore, offered the view that the crowd was no more than
5,000. And Steven Roach has no agendas when it comes to the future of the Storm
in Melbourne. The official NRL stats have the Storm’s
average home crowd this year at 9,127. Hooey!

But even at that figure it is the lowest in
the NRL – just ahead of the New Zealand Warriors. An hour or two after the Storm game,
Collingwood played the Brisbane Lions at the MCG. The official crowd was
55,000.

When the Storm won the NRL grand final in
1999, average crowds grew to around 14,000 – respectable but hardly something
to write home about.

But it has been downhill ever since, and
there is no doubt the Storm has used “creative” crowd counting methods to make
a bad picture look ordinary – just like the then NSWRL used to do when the game
was struggling in the early 1990s.

This year the Storm is playing as
consistently as any team in the premiership – and when the Origin teams are
named today, the Storm will be well represented.

The Storm survives not on popular support – and certainly not on
Melbourne media coverage – but on continued substantial funding
from News
Limited. The real question, and worry, ought to be
that in the fact of woeful crowd support, and the departure of Lachlan
Murdoch
from News management, how much longer will the largesse continue?