Melbourne Storm utility Young Tonumaipea has informed the Club he is leaving rugby league to follow his faith and serve a full time mission.
Tonumaipea, a devout Christian told his teammates during the week, informing them of his decision to leave the Club and embark on the two-year mission. The 25-year old will travel to Germany in July as part of the mission where he will teach his faith and conduct service in communities without pay.
The Victorian has played 40 games for Melbourne since making his first-grade debut and has been a trailblazer for the game in Victoria. Tonumaipea became just the second Victorian to pull on the Storm jersey back in 2014 developing through the Club's U18 and U20 systems.
Tonumaipea was a critical part of the Storm squads that won the Minor Premiership and Premiership in 2017 as well as the Minor Premiership in 2016. He has also represented his native Samoa at international level on five occasions, culminating at last year's Rugby League World Cup.
"It's something that has been on my mind since last year, it has been one of the biggest decisions of my life," Tonumaipea said.
"As I have matured I've come to learn that football is not everything in my life.
"I'm a devout Christian, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and I'm passionate my full time mission over the next two years can make a difference in other people's lives as well as mine.
"Since high school I've been in the Storm system, I'm forever grateful and thankful for Melbourne Storm and the values I've learnt here.
"I'm especially grateful for Frank and Craig for giving me the opportunity to play football – and to Dave and the Club for being so supportive."
Melbourne Storm Football Director Frank Ponissi said while the Club was disappointed to see Tonumaipea depart it was understanding and supportive of his decision.
"We are disappointed to lose a player like Young however we are fully supportive of his courageous decision to follow his faith, something which is incredibly important to him," Ponissi said.
"Young is a player who has been with our Club and in the Storm system for a long time and has made a significant contribution both on and off the field, always conducting himself in the upmost manner. We are incredibly proud of the person he has become.
"We wish Young all the best on his mission over the next two years and for the future."