Melbourne Storm supporters celebrate last night after the Storm won the grand final. Photo: Luis Enrique Ascui
AMONG the Melbourne Storm players who will be departing the NRL premiers in coming weeks, New Zealand-bound Todd Lowrie and Dane Nielsen are hoping, and only half jokingly, that memories and premiership rings would not be the only thing they take with them to the Warriors next season.
The Storm players were greeted by a small crowd of fans and onlookers at Sydney airport on Monday morning and were looking forward to returning to Melbourne for the celebratory function to be held at Gosch's Paddock. However, they were made to cool their heels for a while after their 9.30am Qantas flight was delayed by more than two hours.
Lowrie and Nielsen have been instrumental in the Storm's march to the premiership and Lowrie in particular was inspirational going into the 14-4 grand final win over Canterbury with a calf injury. He was among the players singled out by coach Craig Bellamy for the defensive effort that withstood waves of Bulldogs pressure in the second half.
Nielsen, who debuted for the Storm in 2008, and Lowrie, who transferred to the Storm at the end of the 2009 season, will both play for the Warriors next season after the Storm was not able to match rival offers.
Bellamy, who has been deservedly praised for his efforts rebuilding the team following the 2010 salary cap cheating scandal, is contracted to the club until the end of next season. The Storm is desperate to keep the coach its had since 2003, but Bellamy has been highly sought and it is believed that the Warriors - which sacked coach Brian McClennan earlier this season - are making a play.
After the win, Lowrie joked that he was "going to get in his [Bellamy's] ear" about joining the pair in Auckland.
Nielsen said: "I'd love him to be. I don't think that will happen but we'll wait and see what happens."
Bellamy would not comment on Monday morning about his future said he was "just enjoying the moment" but conceded a decision would need to be made shortly.
Nielsen, who went from a dish hand who could not break into the Cronullla NRL team to a Queensland state of origin representative at the Storm, said the bond within the club was among the strongest memories he was taking with him.
"I've been there for a long time now. There's not one or two things that [standout]. It's just the memories that I've had not just with the coaching staff but the people involved with the club," Nielsen said.
"They're a great club and it's something that I'll truly miss."
Lowrie joined the Storm after playing in the Parramatta team that lost to Melbourne in the 2009 grand final, a title that was later stripped from the Storm. He said while his time in Melbourne had "not been a great move financially", he had wanted more than just money.
"I came to Melbourne for success ... if I didn't come I wouldn't have a premiership ring on my finger so it's something that I'll probably look back on and think it was the right thing to do," Lowrie said.
"It's been great to be involved in the club ... to have a few years down here, it's something I'll cherish and to finish like this is something that I'll always remember."