The story circulating like buzzards in the southern skies above AAMI Park has been the talk of the town for some time.
Melbourne Storm, who have been dominant during the last few seasons in the National Rugby League, are in a state of transition after word sprung that they went over the salary cap.
The Storm won't be playing for points this season, but then again, here in the States the best teams in the NFL only play for wins, losses and draws.
But the impact has been intense. The likes of the Victorian Fraud Squad & the Australian Securities and Investments Commission are on it like an Easter Rabbitoh from South Sydney.
Sponsors have been lost. Community respect has been compromised and companies in Victoria and elsewhere have been torched by this.
The Melbourne Rebels are vehemently calling out the ringmaster, Mr. Brian Waldron, for potentially tainting their reputation even before the 2011 Super 15 season starts. TAB, Australia's main betting market, will be dishing out wooden spoon payouts by the forkful—up to $500,000.
But most importantly, a good deal of the fans have been lost. Fans who would have otherwise packed AAMI Park for matches have instead opted for packing the Storm's Guernseys into a heap of rage outside the Carlton team headquarters.
The AFL will go on its merry way, with or without the scandal. After all, the Melbourne Demons use AAMI Park for training and as its administrative headquarters.
Could it be possible that Melbourne Victory and Melbourne Heart, two clubs competing in the Hyundai A-League, can both benefit from receiving alienated supporters of the Storm? Could this be a blessing in disguise?
It's an interesting question I bring to the table because both teams are on the outside looking in. These soon-to-be-Swan Street rivals are observing the proceedings, engaged in their own schadenfreude.
Sure, the Melbourne Victory have their own dilemma with scheduling and squeezing in match after match, but at least they aren't going over the salary cap.
As for Melbourne Heart, no need to worry; they have yet to debut in the A-League. Easier for them. Both teams have their own bastions of followers: Blue And White Brigade for victory, Yarrasiders for Heart. And on top of that...both teams are playing for points. Unlike the Storm.
Let me bring up this scenario, then: Suppose I am a Storm fan (in real life, I AM a Storm fan through thick and thin), and I decide, "I have had it with the Storm. All this water-cooler conversation of the rot and the News Corp. media circus that follows is making me sick."
And I have options.
I can pick a team that I follow in the AFL, and go to their matches. That's the easy way out. I can also stick with the Storm to the end, and risk watching the end of the world as I know it.
Or I can choose between Melbourne Victory and Melbourne Heart and order a club membership for either side. Heck, there is a sporting event called the World Cup that is going on, and Australia are in it!
My esteemed opinion on the Storm scandal is that it will be a blessing for Melbourne Victory and Melbourne Heart in that there will be new fans joining the ranks.
Those who otherwise would have been loyal to the Storm will find that there are alternatives. There are two quality football teams who play by the rules—albeit a different code—and are transparent in their actions.
Besides, it's better than watching a team rack up the wins in the NRL, but get no points for their efforts, while the buzzards of shame and desperation continue to lazily circle around the AAMI Park big top.
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