|Match Date||18th Feb, 2001|
|Venue||Melbourne (Colonial Stadium)|
Melbourne sweltered in 38-degree heat yesterday while the Storm played Australian rugby league's first match under a closed roof at Colonial Stadium in conditions described as ideal.
With players shielded from direct sunlight and the roof trapping crowd noise inside, adrenalin levels soared, inspiring a thrilling end to a match the Bulldogs won via a controversial high tackle.
The National Rugby League restriction on the number of interchanges allowed also contributed to a match which grew in excitement throughout the afternoon, gaps opening which last year would have been closed by fresh replacements.
The Bulldogs won because they are imbued with a club culture that insists they stay level-headed.
This is not to say the Bulldogs don't occasionally level the heads of the opposition.
A Bulldog swinging arm to the chin of Melbourne reserve Steven Bell saw the tall back drop the ball on the first tackle in his own quarter.
From the resulting scrum, giant Bulldogs forward Willie Mason thundered across the line to change an 8-10 deficit into a 14-10 lead with six minutes left.
Melbourne coach Chris Anderson said in a not-so-veiled attack on touch judges: "I have always said the blokes who get the best seat in the house don't have to pay to get in."
Asked to expand, Anderson asked rhetorically of the responsibility of the "blokes on the sideline" to monitor illegal acts in back play, "Isn't it their job?"
Bulldogs coach Steve Folkes also commented on a case of concussion missed by a touch judge when second-rower Steve Price was dazed in a sideline tackle.
"I didn't see it and obviously the touch judge didn't, either," Folkes said.
No player was reported.
Competitiveness rather than heat caused stress levels to rise, with Melbourne chief executive Chris Johns saying of the effect of Colonial's closed roof: "It was ideal playing conditions out there today. Both club doctors agreed before the game not to employ the heat rules, which al-low more drink breaks."
Johns was disappointed by the 15,070 crowd but admitted the heat meant yesterday "was one occasion when we can blame the beach and the weather".
The Storm's break-even figure on Colonial, far more expensive in terms of hiring costs than Olympic Park but with better seating and corporate facilities, is 15,000.
A small partition in the roof allowed their mascot, Storm Man, to play Spiderman, descending on a rope while a band, led by former Hunters and Collectors singer Mark Seymour, entertained a young crowd happy to have their ear drums banged.
Such activities are compensation for the loss of one of the great attractions the Storm offered Melburnians - allowing corporate guests to lunch within metres of the players warming up at the Glasshouse, a facility adjacent to Olympic Park.
This is impossible at Colonial and Storm officials admit a loss of some corporates who enjoyed watching sit-ups while sipping chardonnay.
But pure footy fans had to wait only to minutes for the first try, a run by Bulldog second-rower Darren Smith out wide from an inside pass from new centre Nigel Vagana.
It came with a repeat set to the Bulldogs through Melbourne's Marcus Bai's inability to field a chip kick cleanly on the line.
Bai was playing fullback at the time, following the loss of Robbie Ross with a hamstring injury. Winger Brad Watts was quickly moved to the custodian's position.
Melbourne's try came 15 minutes after the break when new centre Junior Langi ran 40 metres from dummy half, giving the home side the momentum to speed the ball wide to the left, where Bai had an untroubled run to the line.
A disappointed Anderson rued the "dumb things" his team did after taking the lead, while his brother-in-law Folkes praised his team's "gutsy patch" at that point, when they were down to one fit replacement.
The Bulldogs used nine of their 12 permitted replacements, while the Storm used 10. Anderson did not believe the interchange restriction affected the flow of the game.
One of the few positives he found in the game was half Matt Orford, a pacy, brave player whose kicking yesterday was poor.
Anderson said: "He didn't play great for us today but he's going to be great."
Winning coaches are always more expansive and Folkes said of the new replacement rule: "I watched the three games last night [Saturday] and I thought that a lot of times in the past coaches would have thrown fresh replacements out there, meaning there would have been less holes, less breaks and less tries.
"But now, tiredness is a factor.
"I thought today was a real good advertisement for limited interchange."
Source: The Sydney Morning Herald
|Hazem El Masri||Wing||0||3||0||6|
|Brent Sherwin||Five Eighth||0||0||0||0|
|Craig Polla-Mounter||Half Back||0||0||0||0|
|Darren Smith||Second Row||1||0||0||4|
|Dennis Scott||Second Row||0||0||0||0|
|Steve Price||Front Row||0||0||0||0|
|Darren Britt||Front Row||0||0||0||0|