A new wave of young rugby league talent has hit the training field in Melbourne with the official launch of the Storm Academy supported by Storm’s major partner RedZed and official partner Jaybro.
Twelve young footballers from Victoria, Queensland, New South Wales and New Zealand have been identified as future NRL prospects and will learn all that it takes, on and off the field, to become a first-grade player with Storm.
They are under the guidance of two former Storm representative players – Academy coach Matt Duffie and Recruitment and Pathways Manager Tim Glasby – and will form part of Melbourne’s Jersey Flegg squad in 2023.
The Academy is a key part of Storm’s plans to develop more “homegrown” players.
Storm CEO Justin Rodski said Storm had a strong reputation for growing and developing its own talent during the years of the NYC under-20 competition. However, those numbers had reduced since that competition ended in 2017.
“The Storm Academy is something we are very passionate about and represents the future of Melbourne Storm,” Rodski said.
“Our Academy members will receive the intensive coaching and education they need to become elite players well versed in what we do as a club on and off the field.
We believe there is a clear connection between developing homegrown players and our club’s overall success.Justin Rodski CEO, Melbourne Storm
“If you look at our 2020 premiership players, the vast majority had never played in the NRL before coming to Storm, including a number of our under-20s graduates.
“The end of the NYC competition had created a gap in our pathways and now that has been filled.
“While we are increasing our focus on producing our own NRL players, there will always be a home for more experienced recruits here in Melbourne. That tradition has existed since day one of Storm and will continue in the future.”
Rodski said one of the Academy’s priorities was to bring many more Victorian juniors through to NRL level than has occurred over previous years.
“Since Storm’s inception, we have fielded only four Victorian raised players and that’s a figure which must go much higher for the game to develop here in our home state and for Storm to continue to prosper,” he said.
We want rugby league in Victoria to be strong and that will help Storm to stay strong.Justin Rodski CEO, Melbourne Storm
“Pleasingly we have three Victorians who are part of the Academy program and we also currently have three Victorians in our wider NRL squad for 2023 – Dean Ieremia, Young Tonumaipea and Sua Fa’alogo. We’d love to see that number be substantially more in the future.
“The Storm Academy will add to the very positive work we are undertaking alongside NRL Victoria via the Storm Junior League and the Storm Premiership for the seniors.
“Thank you to our partners and to our Watchtower corporate network who have supported the launch of our new Academy This is an important investment in the future of our club.”
Academy coach Matt Duffie said there was now a clear pathway for elite juniors to develop through the Storm system with the end goal of graduating to the NRL squad.
“We’re committed to developing our own players here in Melbourne,” he said.
We have brought together a great group of young men who are dedicated to improving their game and achieving their full potentialMatt Duffie Coach, Storm Academy
The Academy squad includes Matt Hill and Gabriel Satrick, who are this year’s members of the Coles First Nations Pathway Program which was launched at Storm last season.
Hill, who plays at fullback, is originally from Kununurra in the Northern Territory and has been studying at St Brendans College in Yeppoon, Queensland.
Satrick hails from Yarrabah in Far North Queensland and was hooker in the Australian Schoolboys squad this year as a student at Ipswich High School.
The Coles First Nations Pathway Program, which aims to provide more opportunities for young Indigenous players, has already shown its value with first-year member AJ Gudgeon earning a development contract with Storm for the next two seasons.
The Coles program members receive a full immersive experience at Storm, focusing on professional and personal development, mentoring and elite training.
RedZed Managing Director Evan Dwyer said: “After three rewarding years as Major Partner for Melbourne Storm, we are thrilled to be extending our sponsorship to the Storm Academy. As an Official Academy Partner, we are proud to support Matt Duffie and the opportunities and resources the Academy provides for homegrown players to learn the Storm culture.”
Jaybro Chief Operating Officer Adrian Palumbo said: “At Jaybro we have a long history of supporting youth by providing growth opportunities in learning business and developing their careers. Jaybro are extremely excited to be a part of Melbourne Storm’s inaugural Academy and to be able to offer employment education and opportunities for these up-and-coming players.”
Storm Academy squad
Sheldon Diaz: 19. Front-row. From Melbourne, Vic
Matt Hill: 18. Fullback. Originally: Kununurra, NT. From St Brendans College, Yeppoon
Angus Hinchey: 18. Back-rower. From Brisbane
Mitchell Jennings: 18. Centre. From Sunshine Coast
Poasi Manu: 20. Back-rower. From Brisbane
Jared Nauma: 20. Back-rower. From Melbourne, Vic
K-Ci Newton-Whare: 18. Front-rower. Originally: Christchuch, NZ. From Gold Coast
Suliasi Prescott: 18. Hooker. From Melbourne, Vic
Keagan Russell-Smith: 19. Halfback. From Penrith, NSW
Gabriel Satrick: 18. Hooker. Originally: Yarrabah, Qld. From Ipswich High
Karauria Stokes-Mauahara: 18. Fullback. Originally: NZ. From Keebra Park, Gold Coast
Coby Williamson: 19. Centre. Originally: Emerald, Qld. From St Brendans College, Yeppoon