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Booth walking endorsement for 'train and trial' contracts

Life at the Melbourne Storm has come full circle for Aaron Booth.

Last pre-season, he arrived at AAMI Park full of hope and anticipation as part of Storm’s partnership with their two Intrust Super Cup feeder teams.

Booth was one of four players from the Easts Tigers given the chance to train with the NRL team and maybe – just maybe – get the chance to pull on the purple jersey.

This year, he is back in the same situation – part of the Tigers’ group of four who are training alongside the NRL “big boys” until, at this stage, heading back to Brisbane before round one.

Booth has one big difference to the other three Tigers – Michael Purcell, Jordan Grant and Dan Russell – who started with Storm on January 4.

The 25-year-old turned last year’s opportunity into an NRL debut, becoming Storm player number 208 in the final round of the home and away season against St George Illawarra.

Bizarrely, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it was one of only three 13-a-side games he played all season.

A pre-season trial for Storm against the Warriors at Palmerston North was followed by a round one Intrust Super Cup game for the Tigers before that season was postponed and then cancelled.

However he did get the chance to spend the season with Storm, including the duration of the camp at Twin Waters where he was part of a vital group of players who trained their hearts out during every session even though they weren’t playing on the weekend.

“It was pretty incredible the way it all panned out,” Booth said.

“Being around the boys, and being part of the club, living it and breathing it, was an amazing experience.

I was really happy that what started out as just a few weeks at the club turned into so much time and, of course, getting that debut at the end was pretty unbelievable.

Aaron Booth

“There were some negatives about the whole Covid situation and not getting to play footy each week but there were some great positives there for me.”

Booth and his good mate Nicho Hynes were well aware of the feeder club pathway that existed to Storm when they signed with Easts and the Sunshine Coast Falcons respectively.

Hynes went on to make a memorable NRL debut during the 2019 season and was on the field when Booth came off the bench in round 20 last year against the Dragons at Kogarah.

“I’m here until March this year at the moment and the club will figure out whether I’m here to stay for longer or not," Booth said.

“There’s still places on the roster to be filled for this season.

“I’m watching it very closely and hopefully my name can go into one of those spots.

“I’m just glad to be here for another pre-season. After having such a great year last season, I’d love to stay for longer.”

Falcons teammates Nicho Hynes and Aaron Booth celebrate the 2020 premiership.
Falcons teammates Nicho Hynes and Aaron Booth celebrate the 2020 premiership.

Joining Booth from the Tigers in Melbourne for pre-season this year are:

  • Winger/fullback Michael Purcell, whose pace at Storm training has been likened to Josh Addo-Carr. He has scored 66 tries in just 73 ISC appearances.
  • Centre Dan Russell, who has played two Tests for Papua New Guinea and was a member of the North Queensland Cowboys’ Nines winning team in 2020.
  • Front-rower Jordan Grant, a former Wests Tigers under-20 player who has 49 ISC games on his record.

All four are in line for selection for Storm in the pre-season trial against the NZ Warriors at Redcliffe’s Dolphin Oval on February 12.

Under NRL rules this year, selection for that match is limited to players who appeared in no more than 12 matches in 2020.

Next week: We look at the Sunshine Coast Falcons players who have joined Storm for pre-season.