New Melbourne recruit Paul Momirovski was on hand to see the Storm overcome Cronulla on Saturday night at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium.
The Storm officially completed a player swap with the Wests Tigers, enabling Harry Grant to link with the Sydney-based joint venture club.
Former Tigers centre Momirovski watched the Storm defeat Cronulla 12-10 and then enjoyed a beer with Grant in the victorious dressing room before catching a late night charter flight to Melbourne with his new team-mates.
He took Grant’s seat on the plane after the hooker flew to Sydney with the Storm in preparation for his move to the Tigers following the completion of drawn-out negotiations for the NRL’s first loan deal.
With strict protocols around who is allowed entry into games while matches are played in closed stadiums due to COVID-19 restrictions, NRL officials had to add Momirovski’s name to the gate list.
His name is also on the list for entry to Leichhardt Oval on Sunday when the Tigers host Newcastle, which Grant is now expected to attend before commencing training with his new club on Monday.
Under the terms of the arrangement, Momirovski will return to the Tigers next season and Grant will move back to Melbourne.
Match Highlights: Sharks v Storm
“Both clubs wanted it to happen, the two kids both wanted it to happen so I think perhaps we could have made it a little bit easier,” Storm coach Craig Bellamy said.
“Those two boys are happy, they are down there having a beer together at the moment. Harry is staying up so he will join the Tigers on Monday and Paul will start his year with us.
“Hopefully it will be a good thing for the clubs and hopefully it will be a good thing for the two individuals too.”
For Momirovski, the flight to Melbourne after the match was the first of many he can expect this season due to changes introduced by the NRL to reduce the risk of players contracting COVID-19.
A charter flight took Canberra players to the Gold Coast to play the Warriors, then flew to Melbourne to pick up the Storm but was late arriving in Sydney.
Afterwards, the same plane flew to Gold Coast to take the Raiders back home and then had to get back to Sydney to collect the Storm before the curfew at Kingsford Smith Airport.
“I imagine at some stage there is going to be a little bit of a problem and someone is going to be stuck somewhere but I think for the away teams when they actually have to get on a plane and travel that is something the players and staff are going to have to get used to,” Bellamy said.
“We thought we were catching it at about 2pm and it was closer to 3pm when the plane got there. I think for the next however long, we are going to have to get used to the unexpected and we have just got to suck it up and get on with it.”
Momirovski opens up on swap deal frustration
Bellamy described the Storm’s performance as “ugly” and admitted he didn’t know how they managed to escape with two competition points.
He also said the lack of a crowd had an impact on the game, but believes players will get used to it as the season goes on.
“I think for both teams it probably lacked a bit of venom or fire that it has usually got in there but having said that teams change too,” Bellamy said. “We have had a lot of players go out of our side and the Sharks have had a long of players move on or retire.
“I remember at Shark Park a few years ago when Cameron [Smith] got put in the bin, if anyone was asleep that day it would have woken everyone up but you probably could have dozed off tonight.
“I think teams will get used to and I think the spectacle will be better then.”