Fair and square? ... Melbourne Storm celebrate after winning the 2009 NRL Grand Final match against the Parramatta Eels. Photo: Getty Images
BRETT WHITE, the Canberra and former Melbourne prop who played in the Storm's grand final-winning teams of 2007 and 2009 that subsequently had their titles stripped because the club cheated the salary cap, yesterday had this message for Manly great Max Krilich: ''He is more than welcome to come and try to get the ring off me.''
White was responding to Krilich's comments in yesterday's Herald, that the Storm players who beat Manly in the 2007 grand final should hand their premiership rings back to the league.
''The title was taken away from them, so they should have handed them all back,'' Krilich said. ''If they're stripped, they're stripped, it's as simple as that. They shouldn't have kept the rings, that's part of the deal. It's like the [Olympic] gold medal. If you win the gold medal they give it to you then they take it off you.''
If the Storm beat Manly at AAMI Park tomorrow night and make the grand final against the winner of Saturday's game between Canterbury and South Sydney at ANZ Stadium, you know what next week is going to be all about, in terms of the media focus on Melbourne at least - the opportunity to get one of those titles back.
Will they be driven by it? Will it not be a factor? One thing you can be sure of, no matter what anyone says, is that it will be a story.
Storm founder John Ribot kicked things off early in a newspaper story on Sunday, when he said of the stripping of the premierships by the NRL in 2010: ''It is still a raw point with me. To the day I have breath in me I will try and get those premierships back. I would like to think when the dust settles people can review that decision.''
It's a very sore point, don't worry about that.
Seven players named in the Melbourne team to meet the Sea Eagles played in either one or both of those grand final-winning sides against Manly, in 2007, and Parramatta in 2009. They are Billy Slater, Dane Nielsen, Will Chambers, Cooper Cronk, Cameron Smith, Ryan Hoffman and Ryan Hinchcliffe.
Three others who played in one or both of those games are now playing for one of the other three finals teams still alive. They are South Sydney pair Greg Inglis and Michael Crocker and Canterbury's Aiden Tolman.
One of those players - Inglis, who played in both grand finals - was adamant yesterday that the Storm would be highly motivated by the desire to get one back of the titles that they thought were unfairly taken away.
''Definitely,'' Inglis said. ''Obviously, myself being part of that, really it was like someone kicked you when you're down. It really hurt. There is no doubt they'll be thriving [on that]. I think the most important thing will be for them to thrive on that.
''I know what I did down there. They might take it off the history books, but anyone who watched that game or those grand finals knows who held the trophy up at the end of the year.''
Crocker added: ''I know in myself that I won. I'm not too fussed about what anyone else says.''
White left the Storm at the end of 2010 to join the Raiders. He has had the season from hell this year, rupturing the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee early in the season to rule him out for the rest of it, but he is recovering well and looking forward to taking part in the pre-season preparation for next year.
Asked what thinking was likely among the players who are still at the Storm from those 2007 and 2009 sides, White replied: ''Everyone who was involved in those teams knows what we did and what we achieved. We drove ourselves to be the best then, and the guys who are still there would be doing the same now.
''The motivation for the Storm as a team wouldn't have anything to do with those games - there are a number of players in the team now who weren't a part of those teams, so they wouldn't have that in the back of their minds. But, for a few individuals, it would be in the back of their minds.
''I believe we won those comps. Things went on that were out of the players' control, and whatever anyone wants to say about that the fact is we worked through the pre-season, we worked week to week through the season, and we gave every game all we had. We worked as hard as any other team, any other player.
''I've still got the rings, the tattoo and the memories. As far as I'm concerned, and my family are concerned - and it's the same for all the boys - we know where we really stand.''