Rugby League

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Unfinished business on and off the field

SITTING on Brian Waldron's bookshelf is the unpublished manuscript of what happened.

Of all the revelations in the book - the dodgy deals, the cover-ups, the roles of News Ltd in the saga - the most important is who knew.

When the former Melbourne Storm chief executive said in April 2010, in his only interview since the club's rorting was exposed, that ''I am … prepared to give the entire background to Rupert Murdoch so that he has a full understanding of how his company has managed … the Melbourne Storm'', those fearing they would be named assumed the foetal position.

Those close to the man fingered as ''the chief rat'', who watched as his professional life unravelled, believe he reconsidered for fear of inflicting the same professional and personal pain on the culpable. While he wouldn't comment when contacted by The Sunday Age during the week, it's understood there will be a day when his story is laid bare.

Of course, everything - well, most of the story - came out on April 22, 2010. Waldron, having initially denied any wrongdoing, finally came clean. That date could well have sounded the death of the club. Years of toil by the players, coaching staff and officials proved pointless, as premierships were stripped away. There were fears whether rugby league's Victorian experiment would be abandoned.

Storm forward Ryan Hoffman, when asked if the players still felt they were premiers of seasons 2007 and 2009, said: ''We feel that way and we're allowed to feel that way.''


Sacked independent director Peter Maher believes public perceptions will change when the full details come to light.

''At some point or other the way those decisions were determined will be made public,'' he said. ''When that occurs, it wouldn't surprise me … if those decisions [including the premierships being stripped from the Storm] were reversed. Due process was not adhered to.''

Whether they were the beneficiaries or the victims of being over the cap for so many years is still a point of debate. But due credit must be given to the club's ability to rebuild.

Storm's Fab Four has become the Big Three, with a team of discards and journeymen assembled to fit alongside Cooper Cronk, Cameron Smith and Billy Slater. Other vital cogs have accepted less money to remain under coach Craig Bellamy.

There is no better example than Ryan Hinchcliffe. He was on about $180,000 a year when Parramatta offered a four-year contract which would have netted him about $1.6 million. The Storm's revised deal didn't come close but he took it anyway.

When asked whether today's grand final appearance vindicated his decision, Hinchcliffe said: ''I know I've made the right decision. It's something I looked very seriously at, it was very tempting, but in my heart of hearts I knew I wanted to be a Melbourne Stormer. I have a great love for this club and this team.''

That love also extends to Bellamy. One of his closest confidantes, football manager Frank Ponissi, spoke about the coach's disappointment after being bundled out of last year's competition by the Warriors.

''He was shattered. We went on a trip, myself and a few other staff, to the US in October. That's when he got his spring back,'' Ponissi said. ''Talking about different ideas we were going to bring back to the club. I saw quickly how that fire came back in the belly.''

Petra Fawcett, another of the sacked independent directors, also spoke of ''Bellyache'' when asked for her reflection on the club's journey to the grand final. ''I think the big story is in the coach,'' she said. ''He's inspirational in my eyes. He is fundamentally the reason where they are today. They have a strong leadership group within the team and they have moved on.''