MELBOURNE warhorse Ryan Hinchcliffe says this week’s grand final berth is for the 23,906 fans who turned out on April 25, 2010, to support the Storm after they were stripped of two premierships.
While most of the Victorian franchise’s players have shied away from discussing the salary cap scandal in the lead-up to Sunday’s grand final against Canterbury, Hinchcliffe says the way the team has fought its way back from what many thought would be extinction was something to be proud of.
“That game after the salary cap and I think (24,000) Victorians showed up to support us – we’re certainly part of the landscape down here now,” the representative utility forward says.
“We’ve had a lot of support for the club, for us as a group, to be able to bounce back and fight our way back and it’s just really rewarding.
“It’s been a long road – we’ve had our downers. There’s obviously 2010 but we’ve moved on from that, we’ve learned from that I think we’ve built a lot of resilience from that.
“That’s carried us well this year. We had a tough period and it’s that fighting spirit that’s got us back into this position – and we’re in the GF.”
When the Storm took the field on the ANZAC weekend two years ago, their sponsors had dumped them and logo had been removed from the shirts. Other sponsors logos were covered with tape and there were doubts they would even survive the season.
“There was never any doubt from the players’ point of view,” Hinchcliffe said.
“There might have been media speculation that there was doubt. We knew that we had a strong supporter base down here. We knew that we had a good coach and we knew if we got the opportunity to play in the competition again – which we always knew we would – that we train hard and we prepare well and if you do that, you give yourself a chance of winning games .”
Doubts arose again this year when Melbourne lost six from seven games.
“We always had faith – we were trying hard, we were probably just trying too hard at times,” said Hinchcliffe.
“Full credit to all the boys in this team. We’ve had to work really hard to get to this position. The games that we’ve won, these last few games, we’ve had to work really hard. Against Cronulla, we just managed to come back.
“Sometimes when you start pre-season, it’s so far away that you don’t really think about it. You get towards the back-end of the year and it starts to pop in your head. You don’t want to get too far ahead of yourself. It’s why we play the game. It’s a team sport and to be able to achieve the ultimate as a team, it’s probably the most rewarding thing you have as a footballer.
“That’s what we’ve done over the past couple of years and we get the opportunity now to get the big reward.”
Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK