Melbourne Storm will kick-off their 2016 season for a great cause when they play for the Emergency Services Cup against St-George Illawarra Dragons at AAMI Park.
The Round 1 clash on Monday 7 March will honour the tireless efforts of Victoria and New South Wales volunteer firefighters and other emergency services personnel.
Storm CEO Dave Donaghy, Club captain Cameron Smith and star prop Jesse Bromwich were alongside Victorian Minister for Sport John Eren to proudly launch the cause from their pre-season training camp at Geelong Grammar, with 1,000 tickets to be provided to the emergency services teams and volunteers to attend the match.
Emergency Services personnel and volunteers have worked hard to keep Victorians safe from the threat of bushfires, including many who sacrificed Christmas day with loved ones to fight fires at Wye River and Separation Creek.
As a small gesture of thanks, Melbourne Storm will give away tickets to State Emergency Service and Country Fire Authority personnel and volunteers that have fought fires across Victoria. Families affected by bushfires will also be invited.
"Having lived in Victoria for 14 years, the Great Ocean Road region is one of the more beautiful parts of the State, it was devastating to see the fires to the region over Christmas," Cameron Smith said.
"The Club is honoured to be able host at our first game of the season, members of the emergency service teams and volunteers who worked tirelessly to fight the fires and support the community."
It will be the eighth consecutive year the Storm and Dragons have played off for the Emergency Services Cup since the concept was first launched in 2009.
Storm are the current holders, having twice beaten the Dragons last season.
"Our volunteer firefighters and emergency services personnel have worked really hard to keep Victorians safe. This is a terrific gesture by Melbourne Storm," John Eren said.
"Victorians are really grateful for the hard work by our emergency services personnel on either side of the border. They provide an essential service to protect lives and property."