League still pulling crowds in Melbourne - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

League still pulling crowds in Melbourne

By Steve Jancetic 09/05/2010 08:06:40 PM Comments (0)

If the NRL needed any reminder of the importance of making sure Melbourne survive beyond the salary cap crisis currently engulfing the club, they got 49,474 of them over the weekend.

That's how many fans turned up to AAMI Park as first Australia and then the Storm helped open the latest jewel in Melbourne's sporting crown.

Through all the anguish created by the NRL's decision to strip the club of two premierships and leave them with little to play for but pride in 2010, Melbourne's rugby league-loving public showed they weren't about to abandon the code, though that didn't stop a few venting their anger at NRL officialdom.

One took the novel approach of printing 250 T-shirts which he was selling outside the ground for $10 a pop with the words 'FCUK GALLOP' emblazoned across the front in large letters.

While Storm officials were quick to distance themselves from the product, it did highlight the passion fans have for the game in Victoria at a time when people within rugby league circles are concerned for the very existence of the Storm.

"It's pretty healthy," coach Craig Bellamy said of team's support.

"The fans have been tremendous in the 12 years this club's been alive.

"When I first came here we didn't have real big crowds ... but they were very parochial very passionate and very loyal and they've shown that on Friday night and again today.

"Hopefully they'll keep coming back."

Fullback Billy Slater, who got a double dose of support following his star turn with the Kangaroos in Friday night's 12-8 Test win over New Zealand, said it was imperative the NRL helped the Storm survive their current crisis.

"The NRL would be very silly to neglect rugby league in Victoria," Slater said.

"What the Melbourne Storm have done here over the 12 years is a credit to the game and a credit to the Melbourne Storm culture."

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