STRATHFIELDSAYE has opened its BFNL season with a gutsy win over reigning premiers Sandhurst.
The game at Triple M Park unfolded into an arm wrestle as the Storm lead by 39 points at quarter time, only to fall behind by 13 points during the final quarter.
But the Storm, with Matt Harvey and returning forward Lachlan Sharp playing key roles in the back-end of the final term, the Storm regained their swagger and composure to record a 13.12 (90) to 12.5 (77) win.
Late goals to Sean Johns and one off the ground from co-captain Shannon Geary sealed a 13 point win that dual Storm premiership coach Darryl Wilson labelled as gutsy.
"I thought we were shot to be honest, but we worked hard late," he said.
"We didn't have a massive focus on fitness in the pre-season, but we worked on our game and game-style.
"We were hoping that might get us across the line, purely match fitness more than anything.
"It was gutsy and we were really happy with the young guys.
"We've tried a different style, it's worked for us early and it's worked for us late. The middle bit wasn't so great."
The Storm enhanced their prospects of a season opening win with a blistering first quarter.
After missing the bulk of last season with injuries, Sharp and Jayden Donaldson combined well early with Sam Heavyside.
The trio helped themselves to five first quarter goals, with a sixth from Johns giving the Storm a 33 point lead at the first break.
That became 39 points when Donaldson added his third at the six and a half minute mark of the second quarter.
After misses to Jake Moorehead and Sharp, a snap from Xavier Walsh delivered Sandhurst its first goal at the 10-minute mark and some much needed momentum.
With boom Bridgewater recruit Andrew Collins, who started the game deep forward, getting busy and Matt Thornton getting on top up forward, the Dragons started to work their way back into the centre.
Goals to Lee Coghlan, Thornton and Kristin Height reduced the margin to 21 points at half time.
The Dragons got the start they wanted with recruit Wayne Mitrovic adding the first goal of the second half.
As coach Wayne Primmer did often during last year's flag winning season, he shifted Height deep forward with great early effect after half time.
The reigning Michelsen Medal winner was on the end of some good work from teammate Adam Parry to kick his second, one of five Dragons goals for the term.
The last of those, from Brodie Montague after an intercept mark, gave Sandhurst its first lead for the game.
The Dragons' revival was led by hard-working midfielder Blair Holmes, ruckman Tim Martin and Collins, whose goal in the opening seconds of the final quarter again lifted teammates.
A follow-up to Mitrovic, who was on the end of some clever work from Height, increased the margin to 12 points.
A snap from Sharp at the 10 minute mark kept the Storm in touch, before Collins again extended the margin by capping off some neat work in the midfield from Nick Stagg.
Not to be outdone, Strathfieldsaye finished with a flurry, with goals to Trent Donnan, one of the Storm’s best all day, Johns and Geary sealing the Dragons' fate.
Perhaps more telling than its efforts up forward for the Storm were those in defence from Keelan Payne and Kellen Smith, who were impassable at times.
Geary, whose late goal put the result beyond doubt, was quick to deflect praise to the Storm defenders and also ruckman Harry Crone.
"Our backline was good all day, which really sets up for the whole day," he said.
"If we could play like we did at the start for four quarters it would be fantastic. It set the tone for the day.
"They won the flag for a reason last year and we knew they would always hit back after that start.
"Good teams don't just let you roll them over."