Cameron Smith responds amid furore over Melbourne Storm trophy celebrations

The Storm have been savaged over their 'disgusting' decision to parade the stripped trophies from 2007 and 2009.

Cameron Smith alongside the Melbourne Storm's controversial trophy celebrations.
Cameron Smith has defended the Melbourne Storm's controversial trophy celebrations. Image: Getty

Melbourne Storm champion Cameron Smith has defended the club's actions during a controversial celebration of their 25th season in the NRL on Friday night. The Storm held a ceremony before their clash with Parramatta at Marvel Stadium in which they had past players bring out the premiership trophies they've won during their time in the competition.

The only problem was fans were left seething that they chose to recognise the 2007 and 2009 titles that were later stripped because of salary cap rorting. The club reportedly spent $25,000-a-pop to buy replica trophies after they were taken back by the NRL in light of the systemic cheating.

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The sight of Greg Inglis and Dallas Johnson parading the 2009 trophy proved particularly grating for Parramatta fans given the Eels lost to the Storm in the grand final that year. Rather than award the trophy to the 2007 (Manly) and 2009 (Parramatta) runners-up, the NRL has simply placed an asterisk next to those years in the record books.

The controversial scenes on Friday night were labelled 'disgusting' and 'pathetic' by hoards of NRL fans. But Smith, who captained the Storm during their years of cheating, had his say on Monday morning.

The former skipper said the club was simply trying to recognise the players who took part during those years. "I don’t think it was done for that reason to be honest (rubbing it in)," he said on SEN radio.

"I think it was purely an in-house thing that they were doing for the fans and the players and particularly the old boys down there. Everyone’s going to have their opinion, and I don’t try to tell people they’re wrong if they have a different opinion to myself or any other Storm person that wants to still celebrate those grand final wins.

"I don’t ask them to understand the way we feel about it either. I completely understand people would say ‘That’s wrong, they shouldn’t do that’ and that’s fine… but at the same time, many people wouldn’t understand the way we feel about it either.

“There were guys there that played in those grand finals and then were forced to leave the club in 2010. After that, they never had an opportunity to play in another grand final or an opportunity to win one.

"There was punishment handed down at the time and the club and the players and all the administration and fans had to live through that. At no stage was it an opportunistic time to show it off or parade it around.

"The thing I want to get across is, I can understand why it’s annoyed a lot of people and that’s fine – as long as those people can acknowledge too that I don’t think those people understand the way that the Storm people in that period feel about it at all.

"I’m sure looking at it now, they’re probably thinking they weren’t expecting this amount of news and reporting on it. Particular fans around the country still hold onto it… I completely get that."

Ryan Papenhuyzen and Nelson Asofa-Solomona with the 2020 premiership trophy.
Ryan Papenhuyzen and Nelson Asofa-Solomona carry the 2020 premiership trophy. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

Melbourne Storm boss explains controversial celebrations

Melbourne Storm CEO Justin Rodski told The Sydney Morning Herald: “It was important to acknowledge what those players from those two teams were able to achieve in those seasons.

"We understand that retrospectively the premierships were taken away from our club... but given we were celebrating 25 years as a club, we felt it was appropriate."

In 2019, Smith sensationally declared the Storm should have the stripped trophies handed back because of a perceived lack of consistency with other punishments handed down to clubs committing similar breaches. “If the NRL can have a look back and go over what happened at the Storm over those years, they may find there is a different outcome,” he said.

“The most we were over in one season was $500,000. If you look over the course of time since 2010 until now, there’s a handful of clubs who have been over the cap by similar amounts and they haven’t been made to sit out a season or not play for points...What happened to us was fairly harsh, we haven’t seen anything like it since.”

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