Melbourne is a world capital of sport, boasting every major code and a vast number of international events, from AFL and Super Rugby to the Grand Prix and the Australian Open.
But for the next two weekends, rugby league is going to be the only sport in town.
Melbourne Storm is set to play consecutive matches at AAMI Park and with AFL not due to resume until June 11, the NRL will have clear air at a time when fans both domestically, and globally, are craving live sport.
The Storm’s coach, Craig Bellamy, said getting back on the field so early was a big opportunity for league, particularly in Victoria.
“I’m sure a lot of the AFL tragics will probably be watching NRL this weekend and hopefully on Saturday night at 7:30pm, they’ll turn it on and watch us,” Bellamy said.
“It’s a really good chance for the Storm to exhibit rugby league in Melbourne and hopefully a lot of the Melbournites will have a look, if they haven’t had a look before, and I’m sure they’ll like what they see.”
Storm chief executive Dave Donaghy sees it as an opportunity to grow the club’s fanbase.
“I think everyone is acutely aware that all eyes will be on Melbourne Storm, Saturday night at least, which is incredibly exciting,” Mr Donaghy said.
Mr Donaghy hoped that AFL fans who had not previously followed the Storm’s fortunes, would unite and barrack for their city.
“We’re an NRL club within AFL heartland and we’ve got huge respect and admiration for the AFL and for the clubs and we understand that we’re like a disruptor in the market,” he said.
“Fortunately, we’ve got Melbourne in our name. When you’re a one-club town like we are, there’s a great opportunity there to galvanize an entire city, an entire state.
“We want all of Melbourne to have their AFL team but when you’re picking your NRL team, make sure you pick the Storm.”
NRL has had its detractors since chairman Peter V’Landys set his ambitious target of a return to play by May 28.
Hawthorn president Jeff Kennett recently called rugby league “boring”.
But Mr Donaghy wasn’t perturbed.
“Our sport’s been too busy worrying about ourselves and ensuring that we dot all the ‘i’s and cross all the ‘t’s to get the show back on the road,” he said.
“Ultimately, that’s just white noise.”