For the Melbourne Storm, tonight's Anzac Day National Rugby League (NRL) fixture with the New Zealand Warriors was never going to be a pointless exercise.
Stripped of two premierships, fined massively and already condemned to the competition's wooden spoon entering the seventh round - Melbourne's playing roster made their statement on the salary cap crisis with a relentless and at times spiteful 40-6 drubbing of the Warriors.
The Storm now boast a side worth $A700,000 ($NZ911,638) above the NRL's salary cap - and their galaxy of stars played like it Melbourne - erasing any doubts last week's off-field punishments would lead to a dispirited performance when they returned to action.
"I don't know if it silences critics but I think it shows the spirit this side has and the pride we have for your club," said captain Cameron Smith, who led by example.
"Hopefully we can continue this year like we did tonight."
Lifted by a partisan crowd that now considers the NRL hierarchy - and former Storm chief executive Brian Waldron - their adversaries for 2010 - the Storm raced to a 22-0 halftime advantage.
They maintained the rage to threaten to eclipse their biggest winning margin against the Warriors - the 46 at amassed at Olympic Park a decade ago.
Instead they had to settle for avoiding a third straight defeat under Craig Bellamy for the first time since 2002 - a minor victory the Storm are consigned to for the remainder of the season.
They also take ownership of the Michael Moore Cup - silverware named in memory of the Storm's football manager who died on a trip to Auckland.
Fittingly Smith made the first response to a week of personal adversity that started with an error-prone outing against Manly on Monday night.
In the 16th minute his atonement began when a trademark dummy half run following a barge from Adam Blair carried the captain over the line with counterpart Micheal Luck and Wade McKinnon with him.
The Storm then exploited the right edge to great effect though Cooper Cronk and Blair's work was not quite completed when teenage debutant Matt Duffie crossed with a foot in touch.
But three minutes later the Christchurch-born wing ensured his first grade debut was memorable when a pinpoint Cronk pass gave the 19-year-old enough space to avoid Sam Rapira's desperate dive.
Realistically this contest was never about the Warriors - and they played a peripheral role, never threatening to build any momentum.
Luck suspected this was destined to be the Storm's night as early as the 11th minute when he demanded referee Gavin Badger ``stop feeling sorry for them' after the Warriors conceded a borderline penalty.
The skipper reiterated his frustrations as contest turned nasty in the final quarter.
Two scuffles broke out and Ben Matulino was placed on report for a high shot in the lead-up to Billy Slater's try - the Storm's seventh and final as the match threatened to erupt.
Storm prop Brett White was placed on report for using a forearm on Luck and Jeff Lima was also warned for a late hit on the Warriors skipper; Ukuma Tai'ai was finally reprimanded for throwing the ball at a Melbourne defender after scoring the Warriors' consolation try with two minutes remaining.
Outplayed by premiership-style defence and penetrating offence, the Warriors were no match for Melbourne's intensity.
McKinnon was consistently monstered in defence as Cronk and Smith angled their kicks expertly and the Storm monopolised field position.
Their ruthlessness was evident in the 31st minute - again down the right flank when Kiwis international Blair sauntered over.
Cronk and Brett Finch then targeted the left flank for Ryan Tandy to score his first career try - and blow the margin to 22.
The Storm left to a standing ovation at halftime and eight minutes after the resumption they were on their feet again when Duffie soared to reel in a floated Slater pass five metres out from another trademark incision from the Kangaroos fullback.
Two minutes later Duffie turned provider when his sideline run set up William Isa, a replacement centre for the injured star Greg Inglis.
Melbourne Storm 40 (Matt Duffie 2, Cameron Smith, Adam Blair, Ryan Tandy, William Isa, Billy Slater tries; Smith 6 goals) NZ Warriors 6 (Ukuma Ta'ai try; James Maloney goal). Halftime: 22-0
- NZPABy Chris Barclay