Down ... Sam Kasiano tackles Cameron Smith. Photo: Quentin Jones
CRAIG BELLAMY walked into a heaving Melbourne dressing room beneath ANZ Stadium last night and said: ''I've got one thing to say: we f---ing got what we deserved.''
With that, the Storm's jubilant head coach summed up the sentiment of a proud club that has been through the wringer and, remarkably, come out the other side at the top of the pile only two years later.
Unlike the 2007 and 2009 premierships, which were stripped from the team for the salary-cap crimes committed in their top office, this one can not be taken away.
''I'm just so lucky to coach the players that I coach,'' Bellamy said. ''I don't think I've ever been more proud of a Storm team than I am this time. Even in my wildest dreams I didn't think that we could defend as well as we did in that second half.''
Melbourne's coach and players made a point last night of not identifying the cap crisis of 2010 as a driver of their bid for another premiership. However, there is little doubt the ordeal they went through two seasons ago makes this triumph the sweetest of all.
''As I've said before, I can't think too far ahead and I haven't got too much of a memory to think too far behind,'' Bellamy said. ''[The players] are the ones that have got us to where we are; they are the ones that have believed in the club and worked so hard to get us back to where we are tonight.
''When you do think about it now, it's been one hell of an effort and, as I said, it's been driven by the players.''
Melbourne captain Cameron Smith spoke through a croaky voice after full-time, hoarse from the celebrations after the 14-4 win over Canterbury.
''It's an emotional time,'' Smith said. ''We've just won a grand final. I don't think too many people understand the work that goes into winning a grand final.
''I'm just ecstatic. Particularly with the situation with the club. There is a few guys moving on that have been a part of this club for a long time - blokes like Sika Manu, Dane Nielsen, they've been there since they were kids.
''I'm just so pleased for those guys … Jaiman Lowe, he's finished his career tonight, he's never going to play football again, but he gets to finish as a premiership player. That's what this game is about, it's about fulfilling your dreams and he has done it tonight.''
On rebounding from the turmoil of playing for no points in 2010, and having a pencil run through two titles, Smith said: ''I've been asked a few times whether this one, if we won it, would be sweeter than the others. I guess there is a small spot that says 'Yes.' But winning a grand final, this is what you aim for.
''Congratulations has got to go to the club and the coaching staff. We were gutted a few years ago with our players and morale wasn't as high as its ever been. We built this club back up and last year we nearly got there and this year we did. We made it count.''
Bellamy also made special mention of the four players leaving the club. ''It was pretty special night for me for Sika as well,'' he said. ''He was one of our best players in 2009 and he missed the grand final with a broken leg. I could just see the real drive of the last six to eight weeks of the season - he wanted to make up for that.''