Ring of confidence ... the Storm toast their victory. Photo: ANZ Stadium
IF THE match was for Melbourne's premiership winners akin to the perfect Storm, what came afterwards was surely the perfect circle.
Just metres from where they had gathered before kick-off, in a huddle, to prepare for the grand final, the Melbourne players returned to the centre of the field and formed another circle. This time, with hardly another soul in ANZ Stadium, they gathered in their suits and with their premiership rings, a portable Esky and the premiership trophy alongside them to toast their win.
At 10pm on Sunday, they gave themselves a moment of reflection.
But not too much. This was not about the past, nor was it about the future. Cameron Smith, the Melbourne captain and hooker, spoke to them about the moment.
''I was talking about the next 20 minutes,'' Smith said. ''I think it's important that we enjoy it, enjoy what we've achieved, and enjoy the next week.
''There are going to be plenty of celebrations, a lot of fanfare down in Melbourne when we get back. I think it's important that we do that.
''I spoke for a minute or two, and Craig [Bellamy] had a few words.
''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.''
Interchange player Ryan Hinchcliffe said: ''He [Smith] just said enjoy it - these times don't come along very often. Soak it up - we worked hard for it, and enjoy every second of it.''
As they did after winning the 2009 grand final against Parramatta, the players gathered in the middle of the field, sipped on their beers and sang their team song.
''It's just a little thing that we have - it's the first time we have to ourselves after we finish the game,'' Smith said. ''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.''
Smith said his speech was a little different from his 2009 words.
''This team's been through different challenges - particularly this year; it was quite tough for this group, coming through Origin, dealing with five losses in a row,'' Smith said.
''A lot of people were doubting our ability, but we came through.''
What has become a theme for the Storm over the course of their successful era has been the inevitability that the final match of their season would also be the final match at the club for many. On Sunday, Sika Manu, Todd Lowrie and Dane Nielsen played knowing they would be opposing the Storm next season, while prop Jaiman Lowe would be watching from retirement. Smith singled him out at the end of his speech.
''I spoke about the boys moving on, and I singled out Jaiman Lowe, playing his last game,'' Smith said. ''He's just finished his career, and I've got no idea of the thoughts going through his head, and how he's feeling at the moment. Hopefully I've got a couple of years left, but he's just played his last match, and he's a premiership player now.''