Storm blown away as council blocks training move
In the border town of Albury they are calling it the Storm in a teacup after Labor and Greens councillors rolled out the red tape with a protest vote to stop the NRL side from using their grounds to train.
All the vote succeeded in doing was splitting the town down the middle, with the 32 Melbourne players enjoying a three-hour session at the Albury Sports Ground rather than the council owned rugby league ground, Greenfield Park.
Greens deputy mayor Amanda Cohn said it was a "double standard" to allow professionals to train on the town's sporting fields when "Albury residents cannot".
The Albury doctor declined to comment on whether her decision not to load the government's COVIDSafe app for "personal reasons" was also a double standard.
Albury Thunder rugby league club spokesman Mike Eden said the council had sent the message "that instead of being open for business we are closed."
The former Manly, Roosters, Eels and Gold Coast, player said the council had effectively poured cold water on negotiations to get the Storm to base their second grade side in the town.
"We should be rolling out the red carpet but instead we are putting out red tape," he said. "This could be a great economic boost for Albury."
Councillor David Thurley, one of the five who backed Labor councillor Darren Cameron's killjoy motion, saw things very differently.
"My challenge to Melbourne Storm is one breach and you're all out," he said.
By the end of the day most of the Storm players, who are in strict lockdown with exclusive access only to the grounds, a local gym and hotel, quietly felt they would not mind that at all.
Most now hope that Victorian COVID-19 restrictions will be eased by the weekend and they will not need to return for training next week.
Melbourne chief executive Dave Donaghy said the club players and staff would be "like ghosts" during their stay and wouldn't interact with any locals, but he admitted to being disappointed with the council response.
"The field at Greenfield has been set up by the local rugby league community. They want to invest in the redevelopment of that, they marked the fields, put the posts up, so it's really disappointing for those guys that we're not able to use that facility.
"The economy of these country towns is incredibly impacted, it's hugely depressed. This is going to inject tens of thousands dollars into the local economy.
"I would have hated to not been in Albury and to be telling those traders we weren't coming anymore because they've been so excited that the Storm was coming to town and actually injecting some money into the economy," he said.
That was recognised by the council in Wagga Wagga, which immediately offered its facilities to the team after the council vote.
Originally published as Storm blown away as council blocks training move