Revisiting The Hayne Plane and Melbourne Storm’s salary cap controversy in 2009

The 2009 showpiece was contested by Melbourne Storm, for a record fourth consecutive time, and the Parramatta Eels who were the first team under the previous McIntyre system to finish eighth in the regular season and reach the final.

We have decided to revisit the events, 11 years on…

Route to the final


Led by legendary captain Cameron Smith, the Storm coasted to the final by thrashing defending premiers Manly 40-12 before accounting for Brisbane 40-10.

In reaching the final for a fourth consecutive time, they emulated the Parramatta side from 1981-84.


Parramatta came into the final in outstanding form following a late season surge seeing them pip Wests to a final’s spot with seven wins from their last eight games.

Due to their finishing position, they faced a difficult finals run but shocked Minor premiers the Dragons 25-12 in the qualifying final. This came a week after they were thrashed 37-0 by the same outfit.

Another impressive victory, over third-placed Titans 27-2 meant they faced arch rivals Canterbury for a place in the final.

A memorable 22-12 win completed the set of victories over the top three.

Regular season


Melbourne finished the season in fourth place with a record of 14 wins, one draw and nine losses.

They started the season in disappointing fashion, with one win from their first seven games but a 22-8 win over the Sea Eagles in their first clash of the season and a round eight meeting preceded victories over the Roosters and Raiders as they rose to fourth where they would stay.

Their second meeting with Manly saw them suffer a 16-20 defeat in round 24.

As for Brisbane, the Storm lost 16-14 at Suncorp in round two but demolished Ivan Henjak’s side 48-4 in round 13.

Their only meeting with Parramatta saw them fall 18-16 in round 19.


As well as the final round thrashing at the hands of St George Illawarra, Daniel Anderson had also saw his team lose 22-8 at home in round five in their first clash.

Their inconsistent 2009 season reached a nadir with an 18-12 defeat at Gold Coast, which saw the Blue and Gold in pole position for the wooden spoon after 18 rounds with just five victories.

However, the tide was turned following victories over their final and semi-final opponents.

Firstly, the Storm were upset 18-16 at Parramatta Stadium and then the Bulldogs were beaten 27-8 at ANZ.

These wins set up their outstanding end of season form which saw the previously points shy Eels rack up 40+ scores against the Knights, Warriors and Panthers.

Key players


The Storm’s top try scorer was 2008 Golden Boot winner Billy Slater who crossed 19 times. 

A fullback star for Australia as well as the NRL, Slater came into the final on the back of six tries in the previous two thrashings of Manly and Brisbane.


It was Jarryd Hayne though who was crowned Dally M Full-back of the Year after inspiring his ailing side to the finals.

Between rounds 19 and 24, with the Eels winning every game, Hayne was in impressive form and was man of the match in all of them.

The Grand Final 

Unsurprisingly, the experience of the Storm showed in a one-sided opening period as Ryan Hoffman and Adam Blair crossed for a 10-0 half-time lead.

Parramatta needed to score next and soon after the restart Eric Grothe reduced the deficit but Melbourne looked to have sealed the title with tries from Greg Inglis and Slater for a 22-6 lead.

The Eels produced a late surge with Joel Reddy crossing after a kick and Fuifui Moimoi blasting over after a trademark destructive run with four minutes left to bring them to within six points.

After their season had dramatically turned around, the stage was set for a final comeback to complete the ‘Parramatta fairytale’ but Inglis ensured the trophy headed to Melbourne when he slotted over a last minute drop goal.

Melbourne: Slater; Turner, Chambers, Inglis, Nielsen; Finch, Cronk; Tolman, Smith, White, Blair, Hoffman, Johnson. Subs: Hinchcliffe, Lima, Tandy, Anderson.

Parramatta: Hayne; Burt, Inu, Reddy, Grothe; Mortimer, Robson; Cayless, Keating, Moimoi, Hindmarsh, Smith, Lowrie. Subs: Kingston, Mateo, Galuvo, Mannah.

Storm salary cap controversy

It had seemed the Storm had claimed their third title, following wins in 1999 and 2007.

However, in April 2010 the NRL found that Craig Bellamy’s side had cheated the salary cap of £1.02m over the previous five years.

The governing body ruled that 2007 and 2009 titles were to be stripped as well as the minor premierships from 2006-08.

However, their titles would be withheld rather than be awarded to the runners-up Manly and Parramatta. 

Further, Melbourne would not be allowed to accrue any competition points for the 2010 season and were fined $1.6million.

David Gallop, the NRL’s chief executive at the time, said: “It was through this system that they were able to attract and retain some of the biggest names in rugby league.

“In doing so they have let down the game, the players and the fans of the Melbourne Storm.”

Parramatta’s Grand Final slump

This impressive run to the final did not transfer to the following season as Parramatta were again inconsistent and finished 14th with a record of 10 wins and 14 losses. 

By Sam Harris

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