Unbelievable.  What an absolute disgrace.  Prolonged, systemic and deliberate cheating by the Storm, and I’m not even talking about their playing tactics!

Stripped of two premierships, three minor premierships, competition points for 2010, $1.1M in prize money, and fined $500k.  These penalties are NOT harsh enough.

In all other sports, cheating is treated by stripping records, charging fines AND imposing bans from competition.  Look at Ben Johnson and Tonya Harding.  Johnson was banned from competing for three years, and Tonya was banned for life (although she has fought in a number of professional boxing bouts)!  The Melbourne Storm have unscrupulously knee-capped the rest of the competition, a competition in which they should no longer take part.

Five long years of betrayal.  They have betrayed their players, their fans, their sponsors, the other teams, the NRL, and everyone else in the phone book.  The integrity of the whole competition has been irreparably damaged.  The wider ramifications of the Storm’s exaggerated performances on others cannot be discounted.  The fans, players, coaches and clubs that would have won premierships, both minor and major, were it not for the Storm, have inevitably suffered.

Is there anything stopping the other clubs from launching proceedings against the Storm and/or the NRL for lost revenue?

The Storm’s inclusion in the 2010 competition can only be viewed as cancerous.  How can a team that is paying its players $700k over the $4.1M salary cap this year be entitled to take the field and potentially injure opposition players and take competition points away from rule abiding teams?

I understand that the players and coach were probably not aware of it, and it would be unfair to punish them as they have already had their careers tarnished, but who knew and who is actually responsible?  As children, we are taught that cheaters never prosper… But during five years of cheating, someone’s career and back pocket must have been bolstered by the salary cap breaches.  One thing is for certain – Bellyache would not have been coach of the Blues without the success the Melbourne Storm have enjoyed.

To a certain extent, the NRL must be held accountable.  Discovering these anomalies after the event is just unacceptable.  You can strip premierships but you can’t change history.  The damage has been done.   The NRL auditors should have discovered the problem a long time ago.  Absolute transparency is the only way forward.

While the NRL and News Limited have vested interests in keeping Melbourne as the southern frontier of rugby league, the club’s demise is inevitable and necessary.  They have been bleeding cash since inception into the competition, and what chance do they have of finding a new owner now?  “The Brick with Eyes” Lazarus should remain as the only premiership winning captain of the Melbourne Storm.

Enter the Central Coast Bears…

Storm fans should all jump ship and support the Sharks.

100318_ant'sanalysisBulldogs v Broncos – 7:35pm Friday April 23, ANZ Stadium

The Bulldogs must be relieved that they are no longer the preeminent example appearing in the definition of “Salary Cap Breach”.  They must also be relieved after last week’s convincing 24-4 win over the in-form Tigers.  Sure, the Tigers didn’t bring their “A Game” but the Bulldogs were a much improved outfit.  They do have quality players, even with their injured list, it’s just about showing up on the day.  Hannant has been outstanding every week.  The Broncos also turned in a good performance, and Folau’s return from injury had an immediate impact.  The Broncos were able to pile on the points, but they also lapsed in the second half and conceded 16 points (which is the equal most number of points scored by the Sharks this season).  Both teams are coming off a win, but the Broncos only beat the Sharks.  Gotta go with the home team.

Bulldogs by 10.

Cowboys v Eels – 7:35pm Friday April 23, Dairy Farmers Stadium

These two teams have been less than impressive.  The Cowboys sans Thurston are a poor man’s rugby league team.  With a huge chunk of their salary cap on the sidelines, it is hard for the Cowboys to remain competitive.  Lucky for them, the Parra boys are yet to cement themselves as a team that will hang around into September.  Mind you, with the Storm out of contention, there’s a vacant spot in the top eight.  The Eels were improved last week, flattered by a poor showing by the Rabbits, but a win is a win is a win, and last weeks victory was the shot in the arm that the Eels desperately needed.   Maybe Hindy needs to conquer milestones each week so that his teammates actually put in some effort, or maybe they should practice the chest kick (it should have been a knock-on).  The big hit Mortimer copped at the weekend was exactly what I love about rugby league – Mismatches.  To his credit, the kid rebounded and combined with Tahu to put away the boys from Redfern.  The Eels should continue to improve this week, and the Cowboys will need more than the home ground advantage to trouble them.

Eels to win by 6.

Panthers v Tigers – 5:30pm Saturday April 24, CUA Stadium

Nothing like a good catfight.  In jelly.  The Panthers have got to be in everyone’s top eight predictions.  They have won the last three on the trot, and have looked every bit title contenders.  Their young players like Lachlan Coote at the back have been stepping up, while the old heads in Petro, Luke Lewis and Waterhouse have been leading the way for the rest to follow.  Their last start against the Warriors in New Zealand was dominant aside from a little passage of play after half time.  The Tigers are a funny one.  They have brilliance in Benji Marshall, but a massive liability in their inability to tackle.  It is hard to take much from the game against the Bulldogs, except that the Tigers’ attack just didn’t fire.  If that happens again, the Panthers will be a shoo-in.  I don’t see the Tigers having another off night, but I don’t think they’ll match the tenacity and brute strength on display by the Panthers.  If they can shut down the Warriors they can shut down anyone.  Expect a whole heap of tries and a Panthers victory.

Panthers by 12.

Sharks v Knights – 7:30pm Saturday April 24, Toyota Stadium

The Sharks suck, but at least Ricky will be saved from the wooden spoon by those dirty rotten cheaters, Melbourne.  I’m feeling a little bit anxious about this game…  I can’t explain it.  Perhaps it is merely the chicken kebab I had at lunch returning on me, but my belly seems to think that the Sharks have a chance in this one.  As there is no sensible basis for that feeling, I will dismiss it as food poisoning and move on.  The Sharks sit at the bottom of the table, and were smashed last weekend by a team that were keeping them company down there.  They were hopeless and should start preparing for 2011.  The Knights are coming off a win against the Cowboys up at Newcastle, but I’m just not convinced that they are much scrap at all.  Gidley cost them a try last week, but his presence gives the team that little bit extra in leadership and attack that they sorely needed.  Naiqama is out injured for the Knights, but the Sharks have an injury list that is painfully long.  Head says Knights, kebab says Sharks.

Knights by 4.

Raiders v Rabbitohs – 2:00pm Sunday April 25, Canberra Stadium

The Green Machine at home.  The Green Machine to win.  The Rabbitohs piss me off.  They played rubbish football at the start of the season, pulled it together with three wins in a row, until gifting the victory to the Eels last weekend.  Teams need a killer instinct.  When a team is struggling to find form and are getting beaten up in the press, their opposition must relish the opportunity to kick them while they’re down.  The Eels lack the killer instinct and were dutifully beaten by the Sharks, and the Rabbitohs lacked the killer instinct and were embarrassing against an Eels outfit up against the ropes.  Travelling down to Canberra isn’t fun for anyone, let alone a rugby league team that doesn’t turn up with the right attitude.  The Rabbits have the roster to win, but they have the attitude to match their Armani suits.  The Raiders are a tough and committed side that will continue the Rabbits’ winless record in the Nation’s Capital since 2005.

Raiders by 8.

Dragons v Roosters – 4:00pm Sunday April 25, Sydney Football Stadium

The traditional ANZAC day clash.  Apparently some historians were saying that ANZAC Day had become irrelevant to today’s society.  Hearing ‘The Last Post’ ring out at the SFS would convince them otherwise. The Dragons remain the premiership favourites as they sit alone at the top of the table.  Their textbook Bennett style of play is clinical and effective.  Like well drilled diggers, they will be at the SFS on Sunday to get the job done.  The Roosters go into battle with one of the best attacking trios in the competition.  Pearce, Carney and Anasta are the three amigos that should trouble the Dragons, and keep the Sydney City boys in the contest.  It won’t be enough.  The Dragons boast the best defence in the competition, and the Roosters have conceded more than double the Dragons’ points.  As tradition dictates, it will be close, but the soldiers from St George will continue marching.  Just quietly, I offer no guarantee that the players can spell ‘ANZAC’, or are even aware that the word does not just refer to a delicious type of biscuit.

Dragons by 4.

Storm v Warriors – 6:00pm Sunday April 25, Etihad Stadium

What the hell is going to happen in this one?  The Storm are playing for nothing.  They will either play like they’re playing for nothing, or play like they’ve got nothing to lose.  Their form this season has been off, and I won’t insinuate that they probably knew about the salary cap breach, but perhaps that explains their lacklustre performances.  The Warriors were embarrassing against the Panthers last weekend.  They showed some of their usual spark but the completion rate would have earned them an asterisk in the HSC.  The Warriors have the Beast on the sideline, as well as a whole bunch of forwards including Price and Mannering.  Even with the turmoil at the Storm, the (hopefully) booing crowds if any, an injured Inglis and the lack of points riding on the game, the Storm will win this one.  There is the possibility that they will completely capitulate and throw the towel in, but I have a feeling that they’ll take their frustrations out on the Warriors.  Talk about intriguing.  Will the game even go ahead?

Storm by 8.

Sea Eagles v Titans – 7:00pm Monday April 26, Brookvale Oval

Call me Daddy Cool.  I knew Manly had it in them. Hey, hey, hey, good old Eagle Rock’s here to stay, I’m just crazy ’bout the way we move, doin’ the Eagle Rock.  The Northern Beaches boys may have let the Storm back into the game in the second half, but we still left Melbourne with the two points.  That’s four in a row for the Sea Eagles.  The Titans were outclassed by the Dragons last weekend, however they put up a good fight, even without their captain.  The Titans’ forwards continue to put in a lot of work, but the loss of another playmaker in Rogers is only going to hamper the Titans’ attempts to cross the try line.  Matai is playing out of his skin, and Lyons has both hands up for a Blue jumper.  It’s a good thing they installed lights at Brookie – Turns out Manly like Monday night games.  The Titans are going down.

Sea Eagles by 18.

Progress Score Round 5 – 29/48 60.4%

Multi-Magic … My long shot bets for the punter within…

  • Bulldogs v Broncos – Bulldogs 1-12
  • Cowboys v Eels – Eels 1-12
  • Panthers v Tigers – Panthers -4.5
  • Sharks v Knights – Sharks +5.5
  • Raiders v Rabbitohs – Raiders 1-12
  • Dragons v Roosters – Dragons 1-12
  • Storm v Warriors – Suspended Betting
  • Sea Eagles v Titans – Manly 13+

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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