The Combined Affiliated States and Lisa Fiaola U17’s sides have represented Victoria on the big stage in recent weeks, with the teams travelling interstate to play against competition from right around Australia.
Both the Men’s and U17’s CAS sides consisted of players selected from their performances in the 2022 Storm Junior League and Storm Premiership season.
Players from all clubs around Melbourne had the opportunity to come together to represent the State against the other affiliated states including South Australia, the Northern Territory and Western Australia.
The U17’s side came home with the silverware, claiming top honours after knocking off both South and Western Australia while the Men’s side only narrowly missed out on first place, finishing in second place behind WA.
There have been two CAS representatives that have gone on to play at the highest level, with Dean Ieremia (Melbourne Storm) and Fonua Pole (Wests Tigers) both making their NRL debut’s. While talented youngster Sua Fa’alogo has also gone on to earn a Storm contract.
Pathways and Coaching Manager Tim Auremi said the CAS championship was a great opportunity for both squads to represent their state, while also assisting in their development moving forward.
Auremi said that this year’s tournament helps give the U17’s players an opportunity to experience representative rugby league, while also giving them a chance to audition for next year’s U18’s CAS and U19’s SG Ball side.
“Most of the players picked are eligible for CAS U18’s in 2023, so it gives us an opportunity to see who puts their hand up for next year’s squad,” he said.
“It’s about blooding some of our young Victorian players and exposing them to high level footy, while also giving them a chance to show their talents for potential SG Ball selection,” Auremi said.
“Each player selected in both the U17’s and Men’s division has been picked from their performances in the Storm Junior league and Storm Premiership throughout 2022,” he said.
There were four Victorian players selected in the Men’s CAS merit team, with Ben McIntyre, Lehi Taomia, Takitau Mapapalangi and Alifeleti Ngahe all chosen.
Meanwhile, there was history made in the women’s space, with the very first Melbourne Storm U17’s taking part in the Lisa Fiaola Gala Day at Tuggerah in the Central Coast. The side recorded two wins, a draw and one loss.
The girls played a total of four games throughout the day, playing two 15-minute halves in games against the Newcastle Knights, Northern Bulldogs, Wests Tigers and Cronulla Sharks.
The squad was selected from an open trial held at Anderson Reserve in July, with the girls now notching valuable experience as they continue to develop their game down in Victoria.
The squad is made up of some of the best emerging female talent from the state, with Community Engagement Officer and Female Pathways Coordinator Pauline Poloai saying the Gala Day was extremely beneficial to the squad.
“This was a great opportunity for the girls to get a taste of representative footy after coming through the RISE program, this is their first ever experience in not only representing their state but the first ever Melbourne Storm Lisa Fiaola team,” Poloai said.
“It was a fantastic day, they got to experience rugby league in an another state and especially since the last two years it’s obviously been challenging to have a full season of rugby league,” she said.
“For them to come out and see where they compare to the other NSW teams, it was a great experience for the girls and the coaching staff.”
“It’s a great opportunity for them to see the pathways that are there, so that as the girls come through the years, they can now see that there is the potential pathway for them to go through to the top level,” she said.
“Once they get the taste here at the U17’s level, they now understand what it takes to become a professional athlete,” she said.
“As they now move through the ranks, those girls that are top-age will get selected for the Rookie RISE program and can see what it takes to be a part of the elite pathways and aspire to be the next NRLW player.”