The Thunderbolts legacy will live on with the Victoria Thunderbolts kicking off in 2018.
Following the ending of the NYC competition, the revamped Thunderbolts team will be based in Victoria and compete in the Queensland Rugby League Under-20s competition from next year.
To officially launch the development pathway, four Victoria Thunderbolts; Kuros Metuariki, Nick Hay, Derek Maota and Matt Stimson all trained alongside the Storm NRL squad this week.
Metuariki and Maota are both local talents who have risen through the NRL Victoria ranks. Maota played his junior football with Northern Thunder, the Broadmeadows-based Club that also produced Storm players Young Tonumaipea and Richie Kennar.
Stimson is the younger brother of current Storm second rower Joe, who made his NRL debut earlier this year while Hay is a front rower originally from NSW who has been part of the Victorian system for the last two years.
Local Victorians Jordan Leiu and Kelma Tuilagi have already been training with the NRL squad throughout pre-season.
The Victoria Thunderbolts will play their home games in Melbourne at local grounds and at Gosch’s Paddock.
There is also the hope that some home games will be played on AAMI Park as curtain raisers to Storm games during the 2018 season.
The Victoria Thunderbolts will also field an Under-18s team to be played in the Mal Meninga Cup.
Eric Smith, who coached the Storm NYC side for the past two years, will assume the role of pathways coach in Melbourne.
Part of his role will be to oversee the Storm academy programs as well as work to with the Victorian Under-20s.
“We are excited that the Thunderbolts legacy will live on right here in Victoria,” Smith said.
“The revamped development program will provide a pathway for Victorian kids from the Under-18s and Under-20s to NRL level.
“The Victorian Thunderbolts will be based on the same standards and values that have always guided the Melbourne Storm. This will allow local kids to clearly see a path to realise their dreams of reaching the elite level.”