Three Sunshine Coast Falcons contracted players will have starting roles in Melbourne Storm’s reserves team for Saturday’s pre-season hit-out against Newcastle at Albury Sports Ground.
Bessie Aufaga-To’omaga will start in the centres, Tyson Smoothy at hooker and Patrice Siolo in the front-row after spending several weeks training with Storm’s NRL squad as part of Melbourne’s partnership with its Intrust Super Cup affiliate clubs.
Brisbane Tigers’ flyer Michael Purcell will come off the bench, along with another Falcon, winger Paul Ulberg, four members of the Victorian Thunderbolts and three players from the local Albury Thunder squad.
Parramatta recruit George Jennings and Australian Schoolboys representative Jack Howarth will pull on the purple jersey for the first time, as will development squad member Jonah Pezet, who will partner Cooper Johns in the halves.
Unavailable for selection due to injury for this weekend’s two games in Albury were forwards Max King and Aaron Pene, hooker Aaron Booth, grand final squad member Brenko Lee plus Ryley Jacks who had surgery in the off-season.
King is recovering from off-season achilles surgery and is expected to miss the opening two months of the season.
Pene (achilles), Booth (shoulder) and Lee (hamstring tightness) have shorter term injury concerns.
Kickoff for the curtain-raiser is at 2.45pm.
Melbourne Storm Reserves:
Bessie Aufaga-To’omaga (Sunshine Coast Falcons)
Tyson Smoothy (Sunshine Coast Falcons)
Patrice Siolo (Sunshine Coast Falcons)
Kruz Niutili-Schmidt (Thunderbolts)
James Atonio (Thunderbolts)
Michael Purcell (Brisbane Tigers)
Paul Ulberg (Sunshine Coast Falcons)
Jay Natapu (Thunderbolts)
Antonio Sanele (Thunderbolts)
Bronson Meehan (Albury Thunder)
Reece Clegg (Albury Thunder)
Harry Reicher (Albury Thunder)