Members of the Storm Academy program and the wider Jersey Flegg and SG Ball outfits were recognised at this year’s RedZed Melbourne Storm Player of the Year awards night.
Jersey Flegg captain Keagan Russell-Smith was awarded the inaugural Melbourne Storm Academy Player of the Year award, while hard-working forward Poasi Manu was crowned Darren Bell Jersey Flegg U21s Player of the Year and Dickie Terepo named Greg Brentnall SG Ball U19s Player of the Year.
Melbourne Storm Academy Player of the Year: Keagan Russell-Smith
Russell-Smith quickly made an impact after arriving in Melbourne, setting the standard for his teammates with his disciplined approach to training which shone through his stellar on-field performances.
Topping the points scoring tally in the Jersey Flegg competition, Russell-Smith was the key conductor behind Storm’s attack, scoring and laying on tries while also proving to be a sharpshooter from the kicking tee.
Melbourne Storm Pathways Coach Matt Duffie said Russell-Smith's polished and professional approach to rugby league quickly made him not only a standout performer but a much-loved teammate.
“The thing I like about Keagan is he has built his game around defence and his kicking game, he’s really tough and never lets him teammates down, he puts his body on the line and makes his tackles,” Duffie said.
“He never shies away from the contest, is always in the game, always consistent and he’s the captain of the team at a young age and has tried to bring everyone along with him, he’s got amazing potential and very much a Storm player.”
Darren Bell Jersey Flegg U21s Player of the Year: Poasi Manu
Poasi Manu was rewarded for an incredibly consistent 2023 campaign where his defensive work rate and strong running game set an example for Storm’s young forward pack.
Playing in his final season in the U21s competition, Manu’s ‘team first’ attitude and ‘no fuss’ approach to playing made him a valuable teammate and leader amongst the Academy program and the wider Jersey Flegg squad.
“He didn’t miss a single session in the pre-season, he always turned up and was always reliable,” Duffie said.
“On the field he was always solid, the fact he can play in the middle and on an edge was a key asset and while didn’t all the flashy things consistency wise he was our most consistent player.”
Greg Brentnall SG Ball U19s Player of the Year: Dickie Terepo
Dickie Terepo demonstrated his team-orientated attitude and willingness to play across several positions throughout the SG Ball season, excelling in both the second row and centres across the nine-rounds.
With a strong running game and powerful defensive presence, Terepo proved to be a shining light for the SG Ball side in 2023.
“He was very professional with the way he approached the game, he didn’t stand out but when you looked at him closely from a coaches perspective he was very impressive and very consistent with his effort in defence, never ever clocked off and always gave 100%,” Duffie said.
“He was highly involved in every game and stood out for his effort efforts.”