One of the longest-serving sponsors of the Melbourne Storm says it remains committed to the NRL football team, despite this week’s scandal involving a number of its star players.
Japanese car maker Suzuki says it has no plans to withdraw its sponsorship of the Melbourne Storm NRL football team, despite video footage depicting a number of its star players in a motel room partying with “white powder” believed to be illicit drugs.
A statement issued to Drive by Suzuki Cars Australia – which has been a sponsor of the Melbourne Storm since 2008 and whose current contract is due to continue until the end of 2022 – said:
“Suzuki Australia has been informed by Melbourne Storm that they are currently investigating the incident and we will leave the matter in their capable hands.
“Suzuki is a proud partner of the Melbourne Storm for well over a decade, the organisation has always been beyond reproach, and we trust them to deal with this matter appropriately.”
A statement issued by Melbourne Storm confirmed three of its players have been interviewed by the NRL Integrity Unit.
Melbourne Storm CEO, Justin Rodski, said the players – Cameron Munster, Brandon Smith and Chris Lewis – had cooperated with the NRL Integrity Unit investigation.
“The club is taking this matter extremely seriously. We are very disappointed to be in this position and will be thorough in our response,” Rodski said in a media statement.
“The players involved have fully cooperated with the NRL and the NRL Integrity Unit investigation. It is our understanding this investigation is unlikely to be concluded this week.”
The statement continued: “The club is conducting its own investigation into the matter and will provide an update on our findings in conjunction with the NRL when both processes have concluded.”
Melbourne Storm coach Craig Bellamy (pictured above), who this week won NRL coach of the year, said incidents like this “hurt everybody” in the team, not only the players involved.
Suzuki Cars Australia began its sponsorship of the Melbourne Storm in 2008 not long before the team was stripped of its 2007 and 2009 NRL premierships due to salary cap breaches.
While the involvement of Suzuki Cars has changed over years, it has maintained close ties to the team since day one of its sponsorship deal.
Most recently Suzuki’s logo moved from player sleeves to their chest amid budget changes.
“For 13 seasons, Melbourne Storm have proudly worn the Suzuki ‘S’ on their sleeves,” the boss of Suzuki Australia Michael Pachota said in a media statement at the start of the current sponsorship deal. “From 2021, they will wear the ‘S’ over their hearts.”
Since the salary cap scandal, Suzuki Cars Australia has been with Melbourne Storm through 10 consecutive finals appearances and three premierships.
Suzuki Cars Australia originally got involved as a football sponsor to get away from its “girlie” image, to become more “gender neutral” and appeal more to families, the former boss of Suzuki Cars Australia, Tony Devers, said at the time.
Former Melbourne Storm CEO Dave Donaghy previously said the team was “proud to have a major partner such as Suzuki Australia that have been unwavering in their support. We are a proud family here at Melbourne Storm and we certainly consider Suzuki as a major part of our family.”
Meanwhile, Drive contacted Mazda Australia to comment on the drug scandal involving New Zealand Warriors rookie Reece Walsh (pictured above, far right), who was arrested by Gold Coast police for drug possession on the weekend.
The media enquiry has been forwarded to Mazda New Zealand, who sponsors the New Zealand Warriors team. Drive will update this story with the response.
Earlier this week Reece gave a tearful apology alongside team officials, in front of a wall that displayed Mazda’s logo along with other sponsors.
Joshua Dowling has been a motoring journalist for more than 20 years, spending most of that time working for The Sydney Morning Herald (as motoring editor and one of the early members of the Drive team) and News Corp Australia. He joined CarAdvice / Drive in late 2018, and has been a World Car of the Year judge for 10 years.