BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 02: Ryan Papenhuyzen of the Storm is congratulated by team mates after scoring a try during the round 20 NRL match between the Brisbane Broncos and the Melbourne Storm at Suncorp Stadium on August 02, 2019 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Cheats. Wrestlemaniacs. Protected species. Grubs.

You hear the Storm called a lot of interesting things if you attend a Melbourne game.

But watching the Storm go around on the television or listen on the radio and it seems like there is only one descriptor for commentators and special comments boffins alike.


If you drank a shot every time you heard Melbourne described as ‘clinical’ or ‘just too clinical’ you’d be permanently pie-eyed.

Cliches quickly become part of rugby league orthodoxy. James Aubusson is underrated, Des Hasler is a mad genius, the Warriors are chronic underachievers. Everyone says it, so it must be true. Therefore Melbourne is totally, utterly clinical.

What does the word clinical actually mean? According to the Oxford Dictionary, ‘Very efficient and without feeling; coldly detached’.

Ever seen Craig Bellamy in the coaching box contorting like a pretzel and swearing like a sailor? Does that look like ‘coldly detached’ to you? Ever seen the look in Josh Addo-Carr’s eyes after he crosses the stripe, or the look in teammates’ eyes when Justin Olam posted his first four-pointer? If that is cold detachment, I’m Dally Messenger.

‘Very efficient’? One of the fascinating things about the Storm, especially this year, is how often their dominance in field position is not automatically reflected on the scoreboard.

It isn’t uncommon to see them camped inside their opponent’s 20 for repeated sets and get no result. That was the case against Manly last start.

This week, against the Broncos, they asked so many questions and came up with so many different approaches in attack they could have had half-a-dozen more tries.

If you have a chance to watch a replay of their smashing of the Broncos, count the number of times the Storm gets three or even four players into the tackle in defence.

That’s gruntwork, nothing clinical about it. Watch the way they chase kicks. Gut-busting, nothing else.

Efficiency also implies a lack of effort. Another NRL cliché – one that is probably true – is that pre-seasons at Melbourne are about as fun as package holidays to the nearest war zone. No club works harder on building fitness and mental resilience. No club puts out more effort in the quest for rewards.

Take a look at Brandon Smith as he barges into bodies much bigger and stronger, tearing into the defensive line with ball in hand, or tackling like a feral pig. He isn’t all that efficient, and he sure isn’t ‘without feeling’.

Wild hombres like Cameron Muster, Suliasi Vunivalu and Justin Olam – unpredictable, aggressive risk-takers. If you think these fellas are clinical, you probably think Billy Slater can pronounce ‘Bromwich’.

NRL crowds are in no hurry to redefine the Storm. They will be called salary cap cheats and rule rorters until Brodie Croft is a great-grandfather or Cameron Smith retires, whichever comes first. But can we at least shelve the ridiculous adjective ‘clinical’?


  1. Clinical is probably more accurate than the ones listed in the sub title. The Cheating was over a decade ago and since then we have had numerous other clubs that have cheated including one that has drug cheats, salary cap cheats and illegal coach cheats but all the others get quickly forgotten. No, for mine Clinical is a far better descriptor.

    Go the clinical 2019 minor premiers

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