Three outside backs and one hooker from the Sunshine Coast Falcons are bidding to become the latest players from the Intrust Super Cup club to earn a contract with Melbourne Storm.
The likes of Justin Olam, Nicho Hynes, Tui Kamikamica, Darryn Schonig and Chris Lewis have taken advantage of the career pathway that exists between the Falcons and Storm, with Olam and Hynes going as far as being part of the 2020 grand final winning team.
Each season as part of the feeder club partnership, selected players from the Falcons and Brisbane Tigers come to Melbourne to experience a Storm pre-season and get a step closer to an NRL career.
It’s a valuable foot in the door that can lead to big things, as Olam and Hynes showed on grand final day last year.
Since Storm started training on January 4, the quartet of Patrice Siolo, Tyson Smoothy, Bessie Aufaga-To’omaga have been on the field and in the gym alongside the NRL squad, including those former Falcons who have realised their NRL dream.
Patrice Siolo has played three NRL matches – one for Cronulla in 2014 and two for South Sydney in 2016.
Born in New Zealand, the 26-year-old has made 78 appearances in the NSW Cup across stints with the Newtown Jets, North Sydney Bears, Wests Magpies and South Sydney Rabbitohs.
A junior with the Kawana Dolphins club on the Sunshine Coast, Tyson Smoothy had a taste of the NRL last year when he lined up for the Penrith Panthers in the Nines tournament in Perth.
He made his Intrust Super Club debut for the Falcons in 2019 and played in their sole 2020 fixture before last season’s competition was cancelled.
Also hailing from New Zealand, Paul Ulberg joined the Falcons for 2021 after lining up in 42 ISC matches for the Norths Devils since 2016.
The outside back had a highly impressive 2019 season, scoring 12 tries in 23 games for Norths who have a great history with Storm as the junior club of club greats Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater.
Samoan-born Bessie Aufaga-To’omaga played his NYC under-20s football with the Cronulla Sharks and also had a run for the Sharks at the Auckland Nines.
He was recruited by the CQ Capras for the 2019 ISC season and won the club’s Player of the Year and Best Back honours before switching to the Falcons for the upcoming season.
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.