They're calling it the "Sharknado". The Cronulla Sharks versus the Melbourne Storm in the 2016 NRL grand final on Sunday. This game needs a fancy title to get people excited. Because let's be honest, it is not the most tantalising season decider.
Fans of other clubs don't have much love for these two. The Sharks? Well, there's romance around the fact they've never won a premiership, but the the club is tainted and unloveable for all sorts of reasons.
The Storm? Ruthless, relentless, but oh, so boring to watch. Excuse us while we yawn.
But here's the thing about the Melbourne Storm. Their professionalism is so thorough, it's actually a thing of beauty. Here's Exhibit A to illustrate this.
It's a video, posted by league legend and Channel 9 commentator Phil Gould, of Storm player Ben Hampton training AFTER the weekend's preliminary final, in which the Storm won their way through to their seventh NRL grand final in just their 19th season.
Young Storm player Ben Hampton didn't get a run tonight from the bench. So he's put there on his own having a workout after the match. Pro. pic.twitter.com/KWdjlMo0zY— Phil Gould (@Gus10Gould) 24 de setembro de 2016
Hampton, 24, didn't get any game time from the bench. So did he go inside the rooms and have a beer with his teammates after the game? He did not. Why not? Because he plays for the Melbourne Storm, that's why not.
All clubs in modern Australian professional sport have a good work ethos. But the Storm somehow has a better one than everyone else. Year in, year out, they are dominant, not just competitive. This year they conceded 100 points less in the season than any other team. They are unspectacular but oh boy, are they solid.
Coach Craig Bellamy is of course the tone-setter in all this. Known as "Belly-ache" because of his not infrequent outbursts, Bellamy has a soft side too. For him, club is family. And players soon work for each other as they would their blood brothers.
Bellamy has of course been blessed with champions like Cameron Smith and Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk over the years, but the Bellamy genius is to turn average players into world class support acts -- and sometimes, into champions themselves.
Storm winger Marika Koroibete couldn't get a game at the Wests Tigers, who have made the finals just three times in 17 years. On Saturday night, this reject from an unsuccessful club changed the game with one run and was brilliant all night. Bellamy has gotten the best out of him all year, as he's done with so many players down the years.
When players arrive at the Storm HQ for training, guess what they walk past on the way to the change rooms? Craig Bellamy in the gym. They say he's always there first. Because, professionalism.
So if the NRL grand final isn't really your cup of tea this year (or any year), here's how to look at it.
You know that person at work who grinds away and gets the job done day after day, year after year, without ever popping their head over the divider? That's the Melbourne Storm.
That friend you can rely on who'll always help you out, no questions asked, and will pretty much be on the doorstep before you've picked up the phone? That's the Melbourne Storm.
You don't have to like the Melbourne Storm. But it's pretty hard not to respect them as they seek their third NRL premiership this coming Sunday. Above all they're a reminder that hard work trumps talent. It's a lesson that's been around since the Tortoise and the Hare, but it never gets old.Suggest a correction