Fans show support for

In the biggest rugby league fan poll ever conducted by the NRL?s official publication Big League, fans have indicated unprecedented support for the Storm to stay in Melbourne despite calls for the club to relocate as part of a proposed 16th NRL team.

With almost 4000 responses via the NRL?s website and directly to Big League (out tomorrow), the poll was the most extensive ever conducted and indicated overwhelming support for a 16th team in the NRL but over 70 per cent of fans insisted the Storm be kept in Melbourne.

With one of the questions asking: Should the NRL maintain a presence in Melbourne via the Storm? An enormous 72.5 per cent answered yes and only 18.1 per cent answered no.

Melbourne chief executive Frank Stanton said the results proved that the majority of rugby league fans believe the Storm should be in the NRL and that the club forms an important part of the competition?s future.

?It is encouraging to see results that indicate rugby league supporters are behind the Storm and the development of league in Victoria,? Stanton said.

?Hopefully this will go some way to silencing those people that assume the public don?t want a team in Melbourne, we know that is simply not the case and these figures illustrate that.

?Additionally News Limited has continually pledged its support for the Storm and as recently as last week News Limited executives made it clear in Big League that the company is committed to Melbourne for the long haul.?

More than 80 per cent of fans surveyed called for an expansion of the NRL with the Gold Coast the preferred choice for a 16th team.

?The sample size here can?t be ignored and while the majority of fans may be keen to see a 16th team in the NRL, they certainly don?t want the Storm taken out of Melbourne,? Stanton added.

Storm and Queensland sensation Billy Slater has been voted as the second best emerging talent in the NRL behind Brisbane Broncos fullback Karmichael Hunt. Slater was also voted the game?s third best fullback and came in third on the list of top wingers in the competition.

The Storm?s Matt Orford was voted as the third best halfback in the NRL while young gun Cameron Smith was voted the second best hooker in the country.

In just his second season as an NRL head coach Melbourne?s Craig Bellamy received the fourth most votes as the competition?s best coach.