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After a hard road, Storm's pride gets to shine

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Stathi Paxinos

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Storm get a rockstar welcome home

Thousands of fans gathered at Gosch's Paddock to welcome home Melbourne Storm, the newly crowned 2012 NRL premiers.

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A special team is home to share its success.

THE last time the Melbourne Storm walked together in a formation towards a throng of club faithful it was in a show of defiance after the salary cap cheating scandal broke in 2010. This time the march was triumphant, the team returning to Melbourne, albeit several hours late, to be greeted by several thousand fans at Gosch's Paddock as the newly crowned NRL premier.

The Storm players had enjoyed a night of partying, after beating Canterbury 14-4 in Sunday's grand final, and then a six-hour journey from Sydney, having arrived at the airport at 8.30am to find their Qantas flight was delayed by more than two hours. Then there was another delay of close to an hour in Melbourne to collect their luggage.

Storm captain Cameron Smith at the centre of the celebrations.

Storm captain Cameron Smith at the centre of the celebrations. Photo: Quentin Jones

The team's journey from the dark days of 2010 has been well documented, as has its topsy-turvy form this season, but Storm captain Cameron Smith said there were few things that surprised him about this team any more.

''It doesn't surprise me because of the hard work we put in, and the harder you work the more reward you're going to get,'' he said. ''We were always confident leading into that match, all the talk had been about Dogs and how good they've been all year but we were confident that if we went out there and played well we were a good chance of winning.

''This club's had something special about it for a long time, ever since I joined the place. It might be the water down here, I don't know.''

As the Storm players had done after the grand final wins in 2007 and 2009, which were later stripped by the NRL, they gathered in the centre of the field at ANZ Stadium several hours after the game on Sunday night. They stood around, drinks in hand, before forming a huddle to hear from coach Craig Bellamy and Smith.

''I spoke for a minute or two, and Craig had a few words,'' Smith said. ''It was just a captain-coach sort of thing - we just passed on our thoughts of the season, and [Sunday night], and how proud we were of the result.

''It's just a little thing that we have - it's the first time we have to ourselves after we finish the game. When we get back into the sheds, there's a lot of people in there, our family and friends and media and NRL staff. It's just a time to have a chat about what we just achieved, how hard we had to work to do what we did, and reflect on the season we had, acknowledge a few people just to show how important they were to the success this year.''

Meanwhile, Bellamy said yesterday he would not break his contract with Storm to coach at another club next year. It is believed the New Zealand Warriors, who are without a coach since Brian McClennan was sacked, were making a big play for him. "I've got another 12 months here to go,'' Bellamy said. ''I'll be here next year without a doubt.''

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