Storm sent packing in Albury virus row

Objections by three local councillors forced Melbourne Storm to move their Albury training field to an AFL oval for Wednesday's first session as players prepared for "onerous" restrictions both there and at home.

A pay deal, reached on Monday, was the final hurdle for all NRL clubs to officially resume training which Storm will do in Albury with a focus on ball and gym work, given bans on tackling.

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But Albury council has voted that the club cannot use the border town's sporting facilities. The local council held an extraordinary meeting on Tuesday night.

The councillors passed a motion that council facilities, including the home of the local rugby league club, Greenfields Park, should not be made available to the NRL club.

As a result Storm have sourced the privately owned Albury Sports Ground, used by local AFL side the Albury Tigers.

Street signs in Albury ahead of Melbourne Storm’s arrival for training. Picture: Getty Images.
Street signs in Albury ahead of Melbourne Storm’s arrival for training. Picture: Getty Images.

When they came together for the first time on Monday, Storm players embraced the move to the border town, having been briefed for weeks about the potential for heading out of Victoria.

But many players remained cautious about the significant restrictions they'll face once they start training back in Melbourne and peppered club officials with questions.

The NRL return-to-play protocols limit the players to their homes and training venues and don't allow for visitors.

The volume of rules was so large half the Storm playing squad logged in to a special Zoom meeting on Sunday to go through them, before they had their questions answered on Monday.

"In terms of when they are actually at training there's hardly a concern. Things will be different but are not really challenging," Storm football manager Frank Ponissi said.

Melbourne Storm will use Greenfield Park in Albury as a training base as they prepare for the restart of the NRL season. Picture: Getty Images.
Melbourne Storm will use Greenfield Park in Albury as a training base as they prepare for the restart of the NRL season. Picture: Getty Images.

"It was more the question about life, when we are back at AAMI Park and they are living at home, about what they can and can't do.

"It's about getting visitors, who can and can't come in. The limitations are significant. That seemed to worry them and drew lots of questions.

"Buy everyone left saying yes, they are onerous, but if we don't have them we don't play. It's going to be far from the perfect year, so to get on the field, we'll do what we have to do."

The 50 players and staff travelled to Albury on Tuesday where they will occupy an entire 88-room resort by themselves for four days before being able to return home on Saturday.

They remain hopeful training restrictions in Victoria could soon be lifted allowing them to use AAMI Park, albeit in smaller groups, from next week.

Josh Addo-Carr has been in the spotlight for breaking social distancing rules. Picture: AAP.
Josh Addo-Carr has been in the spotlight for breaking social distancing rules. Picture: AAP.

Objections raised by three local councillors, which triggered an extraordinary meeting on Tuesday night, couldn't overturn Storm's plans which had been in train since as early as April 11.

Lack of consultation, rather than outright objection to Storm's arrival, were at the core of the objector's issues, despite a briefing from club CEO Dave Donaghy on Monday night.

Club officials also maintained they have been in communication with the mayor and council CEO for nearly a month.

But while the issue continues to be thrashed out, Storm decided to shift their training grounds from rugby league club Albury Thunder to the AFL ground used by the Albury Tigers.

Originally published as Storm sent packing in Albury virus row



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