Victoria’s elite male rugby league players will have the opportunity to play in Storm colours next season, with the newly announced Melbourne Storm junior representative teams.
NRL Victoria and Melbourne Storm today formalised a partnership that will rebrand both the U/19 SG Ball and U/21 Jersey Flegg Thunderbolts teams in the NSW Rugby League competitions as Melbourne Storm.
With the very first Melbourne Storm U/17 Girls side taking part in the Lisa Fiaola Gala Day last month, today's announcement further solidifies the strong relationship between the Melbourne Storm and grassroots rugby league in Victoria.
Recently appointed Storm Pathways Coach Matt Duffie joined the Member for Broadmeadows, Frank McGuire, as works commenced on the paviliion at the Seabrooke Reserve Rugby League State and Community Centre today.
A number of players from the Jersey Flegg, SG Ball, Lisa Fiaola U/17 Girls, Touch Football Victoria and local club, the Northern Thunder, all gathered together for the official launch of the new partnership.
General Manager of NRL Victoria, Brent Silva, said the partnership with Storm had already provided great benefits to players, referees, coaches and administrators across Victoria.
“Storm has been a great supporter of our game in Victoria, not only through their success on the field but by putting their name to all of our competitions, having players engaged with the community and providing free memberships for all registered participants,” Silva said.
“This is yet another positive step for our game and gives our players extra incentive to want to pull on that purple jersey.
“We are also grateful of Dave Trodden and the NSW Rugby League Board for their support of the name change in time for the 2023 season. We believe this will have a significant impact on the future growth of our game in Victoria and only further strengthen the game across the country.”
The Storm currently has three Victorian players on the Storm top 30 roster in Dean Ieremia, Young Tonumaipea and Sua Fa’alogo.
Duffie said he hopes the new partnership can be instrumental in developing the next crop of Victorian talent, to one day go on and represent the Storm.
“The Seabrook Reserve rugby league facility is a game changer for the pathways for female and male players in Victoria,” Duffie said.
“It will open up so many opportunities for the participation and pathways programs for NRL Victoria and will also give Storm an alternative for training and community engagement activities.
“We don’t have many options in Victoria when it comes to elite rugby league playing and training facilities. This facility will change that and will give all of our programs greater flexibility in the years ahead.”
Storm General Manager Football, Frank Ponissi, said the partnership will provide young players with the incentive to stay in Victoria to develop their game.
“We have lost too many talented players from Victoria in recent years who have been looking elsewhere for a pathway to play in the NRL,” Ponissi said.
“To have had only four Victorian players wear the Storm jersey in the NRL in our 25 years is just not good enough. We want to build a system with NRL Victoria that provides young boys and girls with the development and pathways to play for Storm – not have them look interstate to follow their NRL dream.
“While the Thunderbolts have been a good development program for our local elite players, we want to build a system that delivers a stronger connection with Storm and provides the incentive for local players to one day play for Storm at AAMI Park.
“Not only will the SG Ball and Jersey Flegg teams play under our name, but players will wear Storm colours, train in Storm kit and have access to our coaches and staff throughout the year to help in their training and development.”