Players and staff of Melbourne Storm returned to community football this week as part of the annual ‘Storm in Your Club’ initiative.
Storm players visited 18 local rugby league clubs across Melbourne and Geelong as part of the Club’s community program, partnering with NRL Victoria to help grow the game after significant impacts during COVID-affected seasons.
Since returning to play in 2022, Storm and NRL Victoria have introduced new initiatives and competition names to encourage more girls and boys to play rugby league in the Storm Junior League (U/6 – U/18), Storm Premiership (open age) and Storm Cup (school competitions).
The partnership with NRL Victoria has seen a new record number of players registered in the state, with more players and more teams than ever before in 2023.
With 30 clubs across Victoria and more than 250 teams in metropolitan competitions, playing in the Storm Premiership and Storm Junior League, the game has seen record-growth state-wide.
Players are also joined by over 1,000 registered volunteers and 99 referees maintaining the game’s smooth operation both on and off-field.
Storm Captain, Christian Welch, said the players enjoyed getting back to the grassroots of the sport.
“I remember seeing my heroes visit schools and clubs when I was playing junior football and wanting to become a NRL player,” Welch said.
It’s so important for us all to remember where we’ve come from and that we are in a fortunate position to be playing at NRL level.Christian Welch Captain, Melbourne Storm
“The volunteers at our community rugby league clubs put so much time and energy into giving these kids a chance to play on the weekend, so to be able to give them something to look forward to was a small but important thing for us to do.
“Our clubs here in Victoria were the hardest hit across the country during those COVID years. I know the players are keen to do what we can to help them get back on their feet.
“It was so good to see the kids and parents at Geelong Sharks on Tuesday night building a new club from scratch, which shows the game is growing across Victoria.” Welch said.
NRL Victoria General Manager Brent Silva said the partnership with Storm has not only increased playing numbers but has helped increase the overall interest in the game.
“Our game has never been in better shape in Victoria with more people playing than ever before,” Silva said.
Our community Clubs are growing at such a rate that there are barely enough facilities to accommodate the number of teams playing, which is a great problem to have.Brent Silva General Manager, NRL Victoria
“Even more exciting is the number of girls playing the game with numbers up by 43%, prompting five clubs to field teams in the women’s first-grade competition this year, providing more opportunities than ever for females to play rugby league in Victoria.
“The partnership with Storm has not only helped us to promote the game but they have genuine buy-in through providing free memberships to our local players, co-branding competitions and players giving up their time to visit community clubs.” Silva said.