As Storm players shrugged off the council’s decision, the club’s chief executive Dave Donaghy noted that local businesses had welcomed the camp, which will mean their party of 50 players and officials will account for more than 200 hotel nights this week while also hiring a local gym.
The club will train in Albury until Saturday then hope Victoria’s restrictions on training could be eased, which would allow them to return to AAMI Park next week. If not they will continue in Albury in hope of the season resuming on May 28.
“It’s all above me,” Storm forward Felise Kaufusi told media during a Zoom video conference on Wednesday afternoon, which included 21 journalists, more than double the usual mid-week attendance.
“I don’t know what’s been going on in the background. All I know is the AFL field we trained on today was bloody awesome.”
Storm winger Josh Addo-Carr apologised to his teammates for going on camping trip last month with 10 mates that broke lockdown laws in New South Wales and could also lead to him facing fines and unregistered use of firearms charges.
“He addressed the team and it was pretty full on for him to get in front of the group and admit he stuffed up, which he did,” Kaufusi said.
“He’s come back with some PBs [personal bests in fitness testing]. I think he’s taken this to his heart and very personal and he wants to show us it was a mistake and he’s going to do the best he can for this team going forward.”
Kaufusi, an Australian and Queensland second-rower, announced he would take-up the option in his Storm contract for 2021. In a normal year he would have been a sought-after on the open market but with a wife and two kids he chose certainty.
“Given the times we are in and what’s going on, it would have made it [moving] a lot harder,” Kaufusi said.
“My decision wasn’t too hard to make with the uncertainty of contracts being put on hold.
“With the time I had, this is the best choice going forward and I’m happy to be staying put in Melbourne.”
Storm officials have established a “clean zone” at their hotel which required all players to be temperature tested and answers a series of questions on their health and recent contacts before being admitted. Various tests will continue throughout the week.
Under NRL protocols, players had to bring their own snack food and can only leave the hotel for training and gym sessions. Otherwise they are to have no direct contact from outside to avoid any chance of someone bringing COVID-19 into the group.
NRL clubs can’t have “contact sessions” for two weeks and can only train in small groups.
“It was pretty full-on,” Kaufusi said of the hotel arrival.
“Once we passed that check-point we were not free but in our clean area.”
Players have brought video games, laptops and other devices to help pass the time. Card games have long been popular among players while Storm lock Dale Finucane has brought his guitar.
“That will be used in my leisure time although the boys might be knocking on my door telling me to shut up,” Finucane commented.
Roy Ward is a Sports writer for The Age.