The Storm is planning to flee Victoria and its Covid-19 outbreak on Thursday, just two days before they were set to play their first game in Melbourne since April.
As Melbourne prepares to enter a five-day lockdown, News Corp understands Craig Bellamy’s side is booked to fly to Queensland on Thursday afternoon.
The Storm will play their round 18 game against the Knights in Queensland rather than at Melbourne’s AAMI Park, as had been scheduled.
The match was supposed to be the Storm’s first in Melbourne since round 8 after a previous Covid outbreak forced them to relocate to the Sunshine Coast in May.
Storm CEO Justin Rodski said while the club was disappointed to be scrapping its homecoming game, it would continue to comply with the NRL’s directive.
“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,” he 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.”
Injured fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen said he would try to call club members in the couple of days “just to check in” amid the Covid-19 outbreak.
“Feeling for you VIC and especially our Storm members,” he wrote on Twitter.
“Thanks for staying with us. The best in the business”.
The Storm sit atop the NRL ladder after 17 rounds. Picture: Bradley Kanaris/Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images
The Storm’s latest exit comes one day after 12 NRL clubs flew to Queensland in a bid to keep the competition going amid Sydney’s Covid-19 outbreak.
The league confirmed on Sunday that NSW and ACT-based clubs would set up shop in Queensland for at least a month, with each side based out of either the Sunshine Coast, Brisbane or the Gold Coast.
NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo called the relocation “the biggest logistical operation our game has ever faced”.
“We have moved as quickly as possible to provide certainty to our clubs, fans and partners,” he said earlier this week.
While the NRL is yet to confirm which Queensland city they will call home this time around, the Storm has already spent a significant amount of time on the Sunshine Coast since the beginning of the pandemic.
As Melbourne’s second wave shut the city down in the winter of 2020, the side relocated to the Sunshine Coast, where it spent the remainder of the season.
When Melbourne’s Covid numbers rose again earlier this year, the Storm packed their bags for Sunshine Coast Stadium once more.
This latest move north is unlikely to faze the Storm, who have won 96 per cent of their games north of the Tweed in the last five years.
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