Now that the Storm has passed at Mt Smart, it's time to say that the NRL should pull the pin on the Melbourne franchise - let the air out of the tyres, take off the distributor cap, stick a potato up the exhaust pipe, walk away and start again.
This season's solution of stripping all the points from the Storm but forcing them to play has been exposed as an empty strategy. It was designed to keep the season on track; to live up to broadcasting and sponsorship contracts; to be seen to be a punishment while the NRL and others sorted out what to do.
But it has come back to haunt the NRL with all the regretful force of that joke about the blonde who bought a baby alarm. She still managed to get pregnant.
Seriously, what did we expect? While you can understand the efforts of the NRL to keep their ship on as even a keel as could be, they have overseen all sorts of injustices.
Like players abiding by the salary cap having to play against those who didn't. Like the Warriors. They had the bad luck to confront the Storm the weekend after the original salary cap - and copped the full backlash of a talented group in high dudgeon.
Lewis raises a very good point here. Whilst the Storm has taken a huge blow to its pride, its ongoing commercial arrangements have been largely unaffected, and the players who caused the salary cap to be not just exceeded by demolished are still turning out week after week, and are still earning the big bucks their illegal contracts provided for.
Lewis then expands on his initial line of thought:
The cheats have prospered. To date, other than negative publicity, I have yet to see any cast-iron punishment applied to anyone.
Sure, the club has been stripped of premierships and NRL titles and a A$1.6m fine; and the bloodletting hasn't finished yet.
But the players have not yet suffered any penalty other than the demotivating effect of playing for no points. All of them are still running around, playing league or rugby. Many of them are among the biggest stars of the game.
The Deloittes report into the rort found 13 Storm players - including seven current members of the squad - had received payments or benefits from third parties that fell outside the cap.
The players were Billy Slater, Cameron Smith, Greg Inglis, Cooper Cronk, Ryan Hoffman, Anthony Quinn and Brett White and former players Dallas Johnson, Will Chambers, Mick Crocker, Matt Geyer, Steve Turner and Antonio Kaufusi.
There was no evidence to suggest the players knew the payments could contribute to the club breaching the salary cap. None of them were willing to assist with the investigation.
That's the killer, right there.
The fact that none of the Storm players involved are co-operating with the inquiry is risible. What sort of mafia-inspired, Underbelly, omerta twaddle is this?
It makes a joke of league. Everyone looking in from the outside finds it difficult to believe that players did not know what was going on. But wasn't that Billy Slater I saw running round at Mt Smart last night? Wasn't that Inglis? They were still being Slater and Inglis; still being paid, presumably; still being stars; still with the presumption of innocence.
Indeed. The Warriors were dead-set unlucky to be drawn to play the Storm just hours after news of the salary cap rort broke. If ever a team was primed to give a resounding "up yours!" to the body which administers the sport, it was the Storm on that Melbourne night.
And there was the prospect that it could happen again last Saturday, after the rort had been in the news again. This time however, the Warriors were up to the challenge.
We commend Lewis for not pulling any punches in this piece. Neither should he; the way that the Melbourne Storm and its backers, New Limited rorted the NRL is contemptable, and Lewis nails it with these comments that we will close with:
It is cheating. You know it is. Assembling that team of stars while other clubs (we hope ... ) were staying under the salary cap is cheating as much as the footballer who dives hoping to win a penalty; as much as Tonya Harding's arranged assault on ice skating rival Nancy Kerrigan; as much as the rugby player who deliberately provokes an opponent to retaliate and thus get sent off.
There may be other players who were not rorting the system. Too bad. The only way to clean up this mess in NRL is to pot the ball and swallow the cue. Get rid of the Storm. Legislate it - or any other club - out of existence as soon as a salary cap breach is proven.
If players will not co-operate, get rid of them too. Ban them for life. Then the NRL has to toughen up its stance all over again. Salary cap breaches, deliberate or otherwise must not be tolerated.
A new set of rules must be devised and agreed by all NRL clubs. Those rules would effectively say any contravening of salary cap rules would result in the instant disbanding of the club and the whole playing roster, innocent or not, would be banned for at least one full season and maybe two.
That'd fix it. Short-term pain, long-term gain.
The NRL, while trying to be tougher, have unconsciously made something of a mockery of their own competition by allowing the Storm and the players involved to stay in it.