Melbourne Storm: three years, rort-free

IT WAS only via a few subtle nods towards the desk calendars on Monday that the anniversary was even mentioned.
It was April 22, a day that should remain etched in the memory of Melbourne Storm players and officials who endured the darkest time in the club's short history.
But three years on the club has moved itself so far away from that shadowy period that the anniversary of the day Storm was revealed as salary cap rorters and penalised in such an unprecedented and unrepeated way went unnoticed.
Even the media, which set on Storm like a pack of hungry wolves for months afterwards, failed to note it.
Coverage of sport is a moveable feast and with more than enough current happenings to satisfy their curiosities stories of long ago very quickly fade to black.
But forgetting is easy too when the Storm has so successfully climbed out of the mire, on field and off, and emphatically silenced all the doubters who had the club falling in to the abyss.
Currently on a record-breaking winning streak that is nearly 300 days long, Storm's all-conquering football outfit, fresh from a premiership last year and a minor premiership the year before, are giving plenty of cause for celebration.
And the champagne could flow much sooner than September at headquarters, with a sale of the club to a consortium of highly credentialed businessmen now imminent.
And that's because, through Storm chief executive Ron Gauci and his team, Melbourne is closer than ever to getting the books in the black.
A profit remains the ultimate goal but Gauci said every number he recently crunched painted a glowing picture of the club, which in 2010 had a black mark on it most expected never to be erased.
"We're at record levels of everything; revenue, sponsorship, membership everything," Gauci said.
"The line dipped in 2010 but the recovery through to 2013 is more aggressive than the period before it. We've improved our bottom line by nearly 150 per cent. Our profit and loss was almost halved over that period.
"Sponsorship is up 150 per cent, membership, since 2006, has grown nearly 500 per cent. Everything is still on an upward trend too, at almost double the rate since 2010.
"The gains are quite substantial. We took a lot of pride this week in that fact not a single word was written about 2010. We don't even refer to it any more."
In sport mud is supposed to stick.
It's taken three years, plenty of wins and a lot of backroom hard work, but at Storm it has been shaken off, the dark skies have turned blue and red figures on profit and loss sheets are edging closer to being black.
The winning streak might soon come to an end on the field but as Gauci, then the new owners, continue to work on achieving "operational optimisation" Storm will continue to be winners off it.