Last Friday, in the midst of their 25-year anniversary, the Storm commemorated their participation in the NRL since 1998, during a face-off against the Eels. The grand finals that the team triumphed in – 1999, 2007, 2009, 2012, 2017 and 2020 – were incorporated in the festivity, rousing some controversy as two scandal-ridden seasons were also included.
Storm player, Slater – a participant in four of the half-dozen victorious grand finals, including the scrutinised seasons – addressed the critique on Tuesday. He expressed respect for diverse opinions on The Billy Slater Podcast. He comprehended that some might disapprove of the commemoration but emphasised the significance of perceiving the perspective of the club, and particularly, the players.
Slater added, many players part of the Storm between 2006 and 2009 only had an association with the game during this time. He questioned whether it was justifiable to erase their careers or instead, whether it was appropriate to acknowledge their contributions. Slater acknowledged the dissent regarding including those particular grand finals in the celebration but maintained it was a display for Storm supporters and members and not for general public viewership.
Challenging the way individuals respond, Slater asked if you dislike a person’s hairstyle, would you voice your criticism, or choose not to give it any attention?
Smith, who clinched three official premierships with the Storm (2012, 2017, 2020), echoed Slater’s sentiments and explained the 2007 and 2009 seasons were included to recognise the players integral to those teams. Mentioning the club’s specific choice on SEN, Smith explained how some players participated in those grand finals but were forced to leave the club in 2010. As a result, they were denied the chance to play in future grand finals or an opportunity to emerge victoriously.
Despite understanding the frustration of some people, Smith emphasised the celebration was organised for the right intentions. He noted the punishment meted out at the time, which affected the club, the players and fans. Lastly, he echoed Slater’s sentiments, indicating that people outside the Storm environment do not fully grasp how the team feels about the controversial period.
Justin Rodski, the Storm’s chief executive, justified the club’s actions, saying that it seemed crucial to acknowledge the accomplishments of the players during those seasons. Speaking to the Sydney Morning Herald, Rodski recognised that the premierships had been retrospectively revoked from the club. Despite this, given it was a celebration of a quarter-century of the club’s existence, he asserted that it was necessary to provide proper recognition to all those involved in those successful seasons.