Melbourne Storm’s NRL squad will relocate to the NSW border town of Albury for their initial training camp to prepare for the resumption of the NRL season on May 28.
With COVID-19 restrictions still in place in Victoria, the move will ensure the Storm players have the right facilities and environment to start training this week after a six-week layoff.
Under the NRL’s Project Apollo protocols, a total of 50 players and staff will be involved in the camp with that number then reduced further for game days.
The Victorian Government approved Storm and the NRL to conduct a Project Apollo education and information session indoors at AAMI Park today, with appropriate social distancing and biosecurity rules in place.
The session gave the 50 players and staff a full briefing on the biosecurity protocols and restrictions that are now in place for all 16 NRL teams to allow the competition to resume.
In Albury, the team will train privately at the Albury Thunder rugby league ground and have sole use of an accommodation venue.
Melbourne Storm CEO Dave Donaghy said Storm’s training base would be re-assessed at the end of the first week.
“We would like to thank the Victorian Government for the consideration they gave to having our team remain in Victoria, but ultimately we understand why that is not possible at this time,” he said.
“We also thank the NSW Government for their support of the temporary arrangements that have been put in place for Melbourne Storm in Albury.
“Internally, we have agreed that Albury presents the best option for our opening training week as the team prepares for the recommencement of the season.
“As challenging as it may be, the team will head to Albury with a positive mindset and use the camp as a way to reconnect with each other after a six-week hiatus.
“Of course, we will continue discussions with the Government about options in Victoria beyond then and we hope to return to AAMI Park soon.
“Our thanks also go to everyone at Albury who has helped us with arrangements for this camp, as well as the various people we have been in contact with at Mulwala-Yarrawonga, which ultimately was not possible due to the location of the training oval.”
The Storm training group will include 32 players, including all 29 members of the NRL squad, plus 18 football department staff.
They will operate in accordance with the NRL’s strict biosecurity protocols which were compiled by one of Australia’s leading biosecurity experts, Associate Professor David Heslop.
“With the help of the NRL, we will be implementing stringent health and safety protocols for our players and staff to protect their health, and that of the community, as well as providing the best possible training environment,” Donaghy said.
“During the period until Project Apollo restrictions are eased, all of our players will have their health closely monitored daily, and will be in their accommodation in Albury, or back at their home in Melbourne, unless at club training or match day.
“This will be unlike any camp the club has ever done previously and our players are already well aware of that.
“And while we know we have many members and fans in the Albury region, unfortunately, because of the strict restrictions, our players and training venue will be off limits to the public.
“We’re sure they will understand the reasons why and like us are very much looking forward to the season recommencing at the end of the month.”