There will be a new kid on the block in the Storm Premiership and Storm Junior League in 2023, with the Geelong Sharks set to run out for the first time in the Melbourne competition.
While there have been several attempts to solidify a rugby league club in Geelong in the past, a growing population and a demand for rugby league across the region has the Sharks primed to make a splash in their very first season.
The Geelong Bulldogs were established in 1991 at Osborne Park and eleven years later the Geelong Tiger Snakes were formed and lasted until 2010. The Tiger Snakes eventually renamed to the Geelong Raiders before then folding again in 2012.
Fast forward to 2023 and the Sharks will be bringing life to Geelong’s rugby league community once again, with the club set to run teams in the U10, U12 and U13 age group as well as a senior men’s side.
Club President Michael Bakker said he was taken back by the response of the community and believes the club is laying the foundations for long term success.
“There was a group of us originally saying it’d be good to have rugby league back in Geelong, so I just went and put the feelers out to see what kind of interest there was in the community and all of a sudden it blew up,” Bakker said.
“It’s an exciting time for the club and what makes us different is that we’ve gone in the opposite direction of what other clubs have done in the past,” he said.
“We’ve been lucky enough to have some big-name sponsors come on board while also running development sessions in our schools, all to ensure we are set up for some long term success.”
Sharks secretary for the 2023 season, Darren McIntyre, said Geelong’s population growth will continue to help the club grow and expand across even more age groups in the coming years.
“Compared to the 80’s, 90’s early 2000’s, Geelong has changed a lot and we’ve seen more people moving to work and live in the region,” McIntyre said.
“It’s almost like all of a sudden Geelong has grown exponentially, which I believe is absolutely a positive thing and the growth of rugby league has come along with that,” he said.
As a new club in a growing region, McIntyre hopes they can continue to invest in their youth, to ensure the club can prosper in the years to come.
“Our philosophy is to always focus on the juniors, as they’re the future of the club, so we hope to get them invested in rugby league and our club,” he said.
“Hopefully as we progress throughout the years, it would be great to one day see these kids go on to make development squads, as well as future opportunities like even playing for the Melbourne Storm.”
“It’s really exciting to be involved with the club right from its foundation and I’m just excited to see those Geelong Sharks jerseys run out on the field in Round 1.”
The Sharks will be situated at Ervin Reserve, sharing the ground with the Newcomb Cricket Club, something McIntyre believes will be beneficial for both clubs.
“The council believed it would be a benefit for both clubs to have that facility run for the full 12 months of the year and it works perfectly for us," McIntyre said.
"The location of the club is ideally situated; it has easy access for people from the Peninsula and from the city of Geelong itself."
McIntyre hopes the club can be a safe place and a ‘home away from home’ for its community, offering a family friendly environment that’s inclusive for all.
“Our focus is to be a family club, an inclusive club that anyone can feel a part of.”