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Storm completes its male pathways

Storm completes its male pathways (Photo : NSWRL
Storm completes its male pathways (Photo : NSWRL)

Storm completes its male pathways

Author : Margie McDonald

Storm completes its male pathways

For the first time in the 26-year history of the Melbourne Storm, the benchmark club will have a complete men’s pathways system with teams competing in the NSWRL competitions for 2024.

Melbourne will feature in the UNE Harold Matthews Cup (Under 17s), UNE SG Ball Cup (Under 19s), and Jersey Flegg Cup (Under 21s), while the North Sydney Bears in The Knock-On Effect NSW Cup will act as their new NRL feeder team.

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“We’ve never had four teams playing in the various NSWRL competitions … it’s a first, it’s unique and it’s something we’ve very proud of,”

Storm Football Manager and newly-appointed Westpac NSW Blues manager, Frank Ponissi, told melbournestorm.com.au

“We really want to create a strong club connection. We want them to feel part of Melbourne Storm – they are the Melbourne Storm, which is now not just a NRL team that plays every second weekend at AAMI Park.”

As part of that plan the Harold Matthews, SG Ball and Jersey Flegg teams are holding three joint training sessions with Storm’s NRL squad.

The first was in mid-December in the south-west Melbourne suburb of Officer – home of the Pakenham Eels.

The second was at Truganina in the western suburbs on 6 January, and a third is scheduled for February in the soon-to-be opened Broadmeadows Centre of Excellence.

That complex will not only be the headquarters for NRL Victoria, but Storm’s pathways teams will train there as well.

North Sydney Bears NSW Cup players Jesse Marschke and Regan Hughes trained with the NRL side in December.

Another two players Jake Toby and Tui Katoa will train for the next two weeks at Storm’s annual camp at Geelong Grammar.

Now that the men’s pathways are set, Melbourne Storm is looking at having a women’s team in NSWRL’s new Under 17s Lisa Fiaola Cup competition by 2025.

With a strong record in developing players from Queensland, New Zealand and other Pacific Islands, Ponissi believes there is huge potential to be found in Victoria.

“There’s a lot of things this club is proud of – premierships and minor premierships – but having only had five Storm players come from Victoria in 25 years is just not good enough,” he said.

“In 2024, 100 per cent of the Harold Matthews team will be made up with Victorian players, while a large majority of the SG Ball and Jersey Flegg teams will come from Victoria, as well as feeder clubs in NSW and Queensland.

“The talent is here. The passion is here. Now, we have the pathway that will help us find the next five, six or 10 players from Victoria to play for Storm.

“We want our players to aspire and believe they can make it (to NRL) and now there’s an opportunity to do it.

“At our joint sessions they will be in touching distance of NRL players, who are not much older than them really.”

The North Sydney Bears and Storm’s Jersey Flegg teams open their 2024 campaign on Sunday 10 March playing St George Illawarra Dragons at Collegians Sporting Complex, Wollongong.

The SG Ball and Harold Matthews sides play their Round One games against the Bears on Saturday 3 February.

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