BY CURTIS WOODWARD
The ‘Storm’ brand is now synonymous with the Victorian capital and the club is one of the most powerful of any code in the country. Premierships, a legendary coach and a litany of international and State of Origin players. Melbourne’s Storm is a juggernaut that somehow seems to improve every single year. But they could have looked a whole lot different if it wasn’t for News Limited’s Rupert Murdoch. The ‘Melbourne Mavericks’ was put to Murdoch in a marketing meeting and he quickly shot the suggestion down as it was “too American”. They eventually went with the Storm and won a premiership in just their second season.
A national survey of the people of New Zealand was sent out asking them to vote on what the incoming Auckland ARL team should be called. Options included Volcanoes, Warriors, Pirates, Orcas, Hawks and Bittermen (after their major sponsor). Of the 25,000 people that voted, 75% selected ‘Warriors’. Seeing as it’s rugby league and its soul is usually sold to the highest bidder, we’re shocked they didn’t go with the ‘Auckland Bittermen’.
Gold Coast Dolphins
Officials of the proposed Gold Coast franchise appeared on The Footy Show in 2005 announcing its new colours and logo – a horrible looking jade, orange and white jersey with the dolphin as its logo. Thankfully, QRL club Redcliffe (also known as the Dolphins) weren’t too impressed and threatened legal action. When the NRL announced Gold Coast as the 16th NRL club ahead of Central Coast and Wellington, the organisation was rebranded to the ‘Titans’.
There had been some media speculation across the country that the new Western Australian club preparing to enter the 1995 season would be dubbed the ‘Perth Pumas’. Eventually, they went with something that encompassed the entire state and used the red kangaroo as its logo. The ‘Western Reds’ were born.
Mergers were on everyone’s lips as the ARL and Super League came together in 1998 to create the NRL. St George and the Steelers had jumped into bed together and began operations at the end of ‘98. They had shown the way. All kinds of possible marriages were played out in the media. Perhaps the most aggressive in his pursuit of a “merger” was powerful Parramatta CEO Denis Fitzgerald. It was no secret Fitzgerald wasn’t a big fan of the ‘eel’ in a marketing sense. Fitzgerald was keen to partner with Balmain and become the ‘Parramatta Tigers’. The battling Balmain club quickly realised a takeover was on the cards and aligned themselves with fellow strugglers Western Suburbs to create Wests Tigers. Fitzgerald wasn’t pleased.
Gold Coast Gladiators
The troubled Gold Coast Seagulls had already changed names once (they were Gold Coast-Tweed Heads Giants when they came into the competition in 1988) when millionaire Jeff Muller bought the club in 1996. He quickly changed the name of the team to the ‘Gladiators’ and headed to Sydney for the pre-season World Sevens where they won a plate final. But the ARL then revoked the license from Muller and they reverted back to the Seagulls. They would then be called the ‘Chargers’ in 1997.
Cronulla Lions/Illawarra Lions
Imagine that! The Cronulla Sharks were almost the Cronulla Lions. Back in early 1967, club secretary Kevin McSweyn led a group opposing the name ‘Cronulla-Sutherland Lions’ which had already been approved by Cronulla president Alf Clarkson. McSweyn even approached journalists to push the ‘shark’ nickname. It stuck. Down the road in Wollongong, sixteen years later, the new Illawarra club almost became the Lions too. On both occasions, certain officials were keen to name themselves after the mighty British Lions. Eventually, Illawarra went with the ‘Steelers’ in a bid to lure in BHP Steel as its major sponsor. It worked.
Prior to their inclusion in the NSWRL in 1988, Brisbane officials had a decision to make. Brisbane Brumbies? Brisbane Kookaburras? Several other names were thrown up but the one that kept sticking was the ‘Broncos’. Officials had met with the NFL’s Denver Broncos in the United States and were sold on the ‘Brisbane Broncos’.