Run ragged Storm hit with new fixture overhaul

Gold Coast’s Cbus Super Stadium has been locked in as the venue for Melbourne’s clash with Newcastle on Saturday night, after the Storm were forced to flee Victoria ahead of the state’s latest looming lockdown.

While the Storm were given the all-clear to remain in Melbourne as 12 clubs set off for hubs in south-east Queensland yesterday, the state’s deteriorating COVID-19 situation has led to the reigning premiers moving to Brisbane.

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Saturday’s revised fixture will see the Cowboys-Roosters match take place at Queensland Country Bank Stadium in Townsville from 3pm, the Raiders-Sharks game at Cbus Super Stadium from 5:30pm and the Storm-Knights clash at the same venue from 7:35pm.

Melbourne’s latest relocation has come just as the club had been gearing up for its first home game since April, when the Storm thumped Wests Tigers 66-16.

It’s also the third time Melbourne have had to relocate interstate since the COVID-19 pandemic began to impact the NRL competition.

“We are really disappointed we won’t be able to play in front of our members and fans again this weekend as we hoped to,” Storm chief executive Justin Rodski said.

“I know how much everyone connected with Storm – our players and staff through to our hugely loyal members and fans – was looking forward to it.

“There has been so much excitement and planning put into returning to AAMI Park but unfortunately the decision in the end was out of our hands.

“We will continue to work with the NRL and governments over the coming days to assess the situation in Victoria and plan our return as soon as possible.

“We know this will be extremely disappointing for our members and fans who have missed watching our team play live at AAMI Park.

“We hope to return again for our match against the Panthers and will provide an update as we get more detail.”

The Storm only returned to Melbourne from the Sunshine Coast a fortnight ago, after being based in Queensland for close to 50 days during Victoria’s last COVID-19 spike.

The Storm’s State of Origin representatives – Josh Addo-Carr, Dale Finucane, Cameron Munster, Christian Welch and Felise Kaufusi – flew home to Melbourne from the Gold Coast this morning, only to be told they were headed straight back to Queensland.

Melbourne last year called the Sunshine Coast home for five months on their way to winning an iconic premiership.

They didn’t play a game in Melbourne after Round Four of the 2020 season, when they defeated South Sydney 22-8.

“It’s clear the risk to the competition is too great to keep the Storm in Melbourne, so we have made the decision to relocate the club to Brisbane,” NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo said.

“The Storm have made significant sacrifices over the last two years. I want to thank the players and staff for everything they are doing to keep our competition going.”

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