The 1999 curse has brought only heartache for the Dragons, but breaking it on Sunday could be a career-defining statement for coach Steve Price.
It has stretched 11 games, originating from the dramatic grand final loss 14 years ago, which prompted Anthony Mundine to famously insist the Victorians were not deserved premiers.
The curse has lasted even longer than the Canberra hoodoo – the Dragons last won in 2000 – though the Raiders have won 13 of their past 14 head-to-head at all venues and they meet again in round three this year.
Mundine’s words sparked a 70-10 Storm shellacking at the MCG a year after the 1999 decider.
Ever since, St George Illawarra fans have run a red pen through a game in Melbourne when the NRL draw is released.
The Dragons are $3.90 outsiders with sportsbet.com.au to topple the reigning premiers and world champions at AAMI Park on Sunday.
However, former coach Andrew Farrar believes they have motivation, after being written off by experts and punters alike and Craig Bellamy rejecting the Dragons’ approach to stay in Melbourne.
‘‘Any time you go down there and play Melbourne on their own dunghill, you know it’s going to be very tough,’’ Farrar, Dragons assistant coach to David Waite in 1999 and 2000, said.
‘‘There’s never a good time to play them, but the longer something goes on like that, the closer you are to breaking it.
‘‘Maybe after [Melbourne] coming back from England, it is as good a chance as [the Dragons] will have to win down there.’’
Days after announcing he would stay in Melbourne – knocking back a $6million offer from St George Illawarra to take over next year – Bellamy steered the Storm to a hard-fought World Club Challenge win over Leeds.
Bellamy’s future is secure, but Price is still fighting to keep the top job at the Dragons.
Farrar said breaking the long-standing Melbourne curse would be just the tonic for Price.
Many Dragons fans still remember the penalty try ruling from Jamie Ainscough’s in-goal high tackle on Melbourne winger Craig Smith, sealing the Storm’s 20-18 triumph at ANZ Stadium in 1999.
Three weeks earlier, St George Illawarra had won 34-10 in the qualifying final, still their last victory in Melbourne.
Then before a rematch in round five, 2000, Mundine famously declared ‘‘I don’t feel they deserved to win [the grand final] but they got the win’’, all the ammunition Melbourne needed to deliver a 70-10 thumping.
‘‘It certainly inflamed the situation and the rivalry,’’ Farrar, who took over as coach late in 2000, said.
‘‘They were mostly good times then, but we weren’t too happy at all about that score.’’
‘‘That game and the 1999 grand final are what the rivalry is built on. [Melbourne] had a lot of resources behind them to make them a success very quickly.
‘‘We had a lot of hard work to get over some jealousies and teething problems bringing the two camps together, but we had the salary cap exemptions and the talent to make it work.’’
The Dragons have lost their past 11 games in Melbourne, in contrast to a three-all record in Wollongong with one draw, and 2-4 in Sydney.
The co-ordinator of a group called the Melbourne-based Dragons Supporters, George Georgiou, has lived in the southern capital for 15 years, waiting to see a live victory over the Storm.
Georgiou said time is running out for Price to convince the hardcore fan base he is the man for the job.
‘‘It’s one thing for the board and the club to be looking at other options like Bellamy,’’ he said.
‘‘But you don’t want the supporter base to be getting negative early in the season and demand a new coach.
‘‘It’s happened in the past, putting a lot of pressure on guys like Farrar and Browny [Nathan Brown] and it will happen to Pricey if they don’t fire early.
‘‘After so many years of them struggling down here, I can’t say I’m too optimistic [about Sunday], but if they could pull it off it would be just what the club needs.’'