Jeff Dickinson-Fox reviews the campaign which saw Melbourne Storm crowned premiers in 2017.
3 days ago
Relations between Brisbane and NRL premiers Melbourne have soured again following a decision by rugby league's most explosive young talent Israel Folau to head home next year.
Storm chief executive Brian Waldron's efforts to put on a brave face failed Monday when he publicly invited Brisbane to "bring it on" before the NRL protagonists renew hostilities on the field on Friday night.
"Bring it on," bristled Waldron.
"Good luck to them, but you're right, there's no love lost."
He made it clear Melbourne had not lost a battle with Brisbane to retain the game's hottest young player.
"At the end of the day, we've done everything in our powers to make him understand that this is the best place for him," said Waldron.
"We're very disappointed to lose him, life goes on, we'll be ok.
"They got lucky, he fell into their lap because of the geographical situation of his family."
Waldron then took a veiled swipe at the Broncos.
"They're a pretty good football side but they've got their own issues with their salary cap which is going to be interesting to watch," he said.
Brisbane's incoming coach next season will inherit a fearsome young backline with Folau joining Peter Wallace (22), Darren Lockyer (31), Justin Hodges (25), Steve Michaels (21), Darius Boyd (20), Reece Robinson (23), Denan Kemp (20) and Karmichael Hunt (21).
Broncos chief executive Bruno Cullen rubbished reports the club had sold the farm to secure the dynamic teenager who turns 19 on Thursday.
He said the deal was nothing like the reported $1.6 million to $2 million and attacked media reports suggesting his signing was the first move in Brisbane plundering Melbourne of their coach Craig Bellamy, to replace Wayne Bennett, and Storm captain Cameron Smith.
Folau was hailed the game's next Mal Meninga after bursting onto the NRL scene with some blockbusting tries early in 2007.
He finished a stunning debut season as the Dally M rookie of the year, the premiership's number one try scorer and with a special place in the game's history books as the youngest player in 100 years to represent Australia.
Cullen revealed Folau's four-year deal was actually a two-year arrangement and would not put the club's salary cap at risk.
"It's not a large chunk and it's not a small fee," said Cullen.
"But it's not the sort of fee that's going to damage the salary cap.
"We've got some players who are leaving and retiring.
"We're talking about an 18-year-old kid here who jumped out of the ground last year, played in a premiership-winning side and played for Australia who's got heaps of talent.
"It's a four-year deal but to cover suspicions about the money it has been set up as a two-by-two year arrangement with an option.
"The option protects him if he does become the superstar everyone is tipping, and we're certainly hoping he does.
"He can come back to us and say `I am a superstar, this money is not good enough, I'll go elsewhere'.
"It's not locked in for four years, it's a two-year deal with a further two-year option his way."
Brisbane and Melbourne have been at each other's throats since the Storm claimed they were duped in the 2007 grand final by some refereeing decisions.
Melbourne believe Brisbane also drove the grapple tackle campaign against them last year.
The clubs engaged in a public slanging match before the Storm smashed a wounded Brisbane out of last year's finals series.