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Storm great’s confronting stripped titles claim

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A defiant Michael Crocker says he’s a 2007 NRL premiership-winner and has hit those who back the stripping of the Melbourne Storm’s titles with a swift rebuttal.

The controversy surrounding Melbourne’s 2007 and 2009 titles, which the NRL discarded after finding the club guilty of rorting the salary cap, roared back to life when former Storm captain Cameron Smith refused to back down at a special lunch last month, declaring “they’re still premierships to me”.

While Crocker was with the South Sydney Rabbitohs by the time of Melbourne’s 2009 premiership, the former Queensland Maroons enforcer was a member of the Storm’s victorious 2007 team after joining the club the season before.

Crocker said “I absolutely think we won it” and suggested the critics should “do some research”.

“I think if you look at the premiership-winners over the last 30 or 40 years, I dare say there would be a few teams over the cap in that period,” Crocker told Wide World of Sports.

“If someone wants to go back and do some research about what was happening back then, feel free.

“But I don’t think anyone should be ripping into anyone.”

Melbourne were estimated to have breached the salary cap by $1.7 million over five years and, as a result, they were fined $500,000, were forced to return $1.1 million and had two titles and three minor premierships stripped. The Storm were also forced to play for no competition points in the 2010 season, consigning them to the wooden spoon.

The NRL’s crushing punishment was dealt out under the reign of then-chief executive David Gallop.

Among the many arguments Crocker has in favour of Melbourne is the youthfulness of the team that lifted the Provan-Summons trophy.

The Storm’s 17 had played an average of only 88 first-grade games and had an average age of just 24. Among the team were an 18-year-old Israel Folau in the centres, as well as a 20-year-old Greg Inglis at five-eighth.

“I absolutely think we won it that year. We did win it that year,” Crocker said.

“It was a young squad that (coach) Craig (Bellamy) built up. I was the only representative player recruited there. We worked hard, we know that we did … It’s unfortunate the way it panned out, but in all of the players’ eyes it was a premiership we won.”

Just six members of Melbourne’s 2007 and 2009 grand final teams lay claim to a premiership officially recognised by the NRL.

Crocker won a title with the Roosters in 2002, Cooper Cronk tasted glory with the Storm in 2012 and 2017, as well as with the Tricolours in 2018 and 2019, and Cameron Smith (2012, 2017, 2020) and Billy Slater (2012, 2017) also reached the pinnacle.

Rounding out the list is Inglis, who won a title with the Rabbitohs in 2014, 2010 Dragons premiership-winner Jeremy Smith, and Will Chambers, who was a member of the Storm’s 2017 grand final team.

While Crocker says he’s no longer spooked by the darkest chapter in Storm history, he worries that it still grinds away at Bellamy and other key Storm figures.

“For the guys that built the club and Craig, the hard work he put in to get the team ready, I think it’s really important for them to not think about it,” Crocker said.

“Craig, that was his first one and he and the guys around him, Frank Ponnisi and the board members, these guys that built the club, they put a lot of hard work into putting that squad together to get them to the point for us to win a premiership.

“We had a lot of young kids and they built those kids from young footy players into superstars.

“So I think for them it’s really important, in my mind, that it doesn’t matter.”

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Reports | Tottenham set to announce Paulo Fonseca as their new manager

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According to the Guardian, Tottenham are set to appoint Paulo Fonseca as their new manager this week on an expected three-year deal following the signing of Fabio Paratici. The former Roma manager has been linked with a move after talks with Antonio Conte fell apart due a difference in ideologies.

Following the sacking and subsequent departure of Jose Mourinho to Roma, Tottenham have struggled to find their next manager. Reports had indicated that they had originally picked Erik ten Hag but the Ajax boss signed a contract extension with the Dutch sides. Not only that, the club lost out on Julian Nagelsmann with the German signing for Bayern Munich. But while there was a shock move for Antonio Conte on the cards, that fell apart due to a difference of ideologies.

However, the club’s managerial search is set to come to an end with the Guardian reporting that Spurs have picked Paulo Fonseca as their new manager. The former AS Roma boss is set to reportedly sign a three year deal with the move made by, Tottenham’s new managing director of football, Fabio Paratici after the move for Conte fell apart. Paratici was recently confirmed to have signed for the North London side earlier this week with Fonseca reportedly keen on the job.

The former AS Roma boss originally rose through management in Portuguese football, having spent the entirety of his playing career in Portugal. With notable management experience including Porto, Braga and Shakhtar Donetsk, where he won the league three times. Fonseca is set to sign a three year deal with Tottenham but it will be, reportedly, structured as a two year contract with an option to extend it by a year.

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India versus NZ is a fitting World Test Championship final

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New Zealand and India face off in a rare Test knockout, the culmination of two years of hard work. (more…)

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Alabama season opener vs Miami game marks the end of an era for Crimson Tide

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The Alabama football program is leaving the neutral-site affairs behind in favor of more home-and-home series after the 2021 college season.

Once the Alabama football team presumably defeats the Miami Hurricanes on Labor Day in Atlanta, the Crimson Tide will finally begin playing Power Five teams in much-anticipated home-and-home series.

For years, this had served Nick Saban and his program. Alabama would only play Power 5 teams out-of-conference at a neutral site. While this gave the Crimson Tide a major scheduling advantage, everything will change after the Chick-fil-A Kickoff vs. Miami down in Atlanta this year. This truly marks the end of an era in what will surely be Saban’s final years down in Tuscaloosa.

Alabama football: Crimson Tide will play its last neutral-site game vs. Miami

Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne should be applauded for all the exciting games he has on tap for the football program down the line. The Crimson Tide will play teams like Texas, Wisconsin, Florida State, West Virginia, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Oklahoma State, Georgia Tech, Boston College and Virginia Tech between 2022 and 2035. Of course, Saban will most likely be retired well before 2035.

While Alabama fans may love the opportunity to go to places like Austin and Columbus, the reason Byrne is doing this with presumably Saban’s blessing is very simple: Alabama will not be punished by losing a game on the road out-of-conference once the College Football Playoff expands from four to 12 teams. Saban will coach in some of these games, but will not coach in all of them.

Alabama can afford to drop a road game in South Bend, Stillwater or Blacksburg as long as the Crimson Tide are one of the 12 best teams in the country at the end of the year. Other programs may have beaten Alabama to the punch when it comes to impressing the Selection Committee with their non-conference resume, but the Crimson Tide will be making up for it when it counts.

Look for Alabama to win its last neutral-site game vs. Miami before doing away with them in favor of the home-and-home series.

For more NCAA football news, analysis, opinion and unique coverage by FanSided, including Heisman Trophy and College Football Playoff rankings, be sure to bookmark these pages.

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