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The new facility is officially open.

The new home of community and pathways footy in Melbourne has been hailed as a “game changer” for developing Victorian talent, as ministers and Storm officials officially opened the State Rugby League and Community Centre at Seabrook Reserve.

The facility is a boon to the club in a year where the Storm are fielding men’s teams in the three NSWRL competitions for the first time.

It is also vitally important to the growth of its women’s program and a future NRLW bid – an area where the Storm are keen to ensure that their foundations are as sturdy as possible.

“This facility is a game changer in terms of providing a facility for our pathway players, men and women, an opportunity to be based at a high-quality, high-performance centre,” Storm’s General Manager Frank Ponissi told

“Everything’s here – you’ve got three and a half training fields, you’ve got a gymnasium, you’ve got recovery facilities, meeting rooms, offices – we’ve just never had that before. To be able to call this the home of our pathways is very exciting.”

Victorian Minister for Sport, Steve Dimopoulos with Storm Junior Rep players
Victorian Minister for Sport, Steve Dimopoulos with Storm Junior Rep players

The Storm currently do not field women’s teams in the NSWRL competitions. This is set to change, however, with the introduction of an U/17's team in the Lisa Fiaola Cup next season and plans for a Tarsha Gale Cup side down the track.

The 13-15-year-old group has the largest participation number of any age group for women and girls in Melbourne. It is promising signs for the Storm, given that it is those players who will directly feed into the Lisa Fiaola Cup side.

The club hope these youngsters, along with other Melbourne-based NRLW footballers who play elsewhere, will be the foundation of their team moving forward.

“Having an NRLW team – it’s not if, it’s when,” Ponissi said. “This will certainly help because starting now, the girls are preparing for the U/17's competition next year. This gives them a home where they will be based and have high quality facilities to prepare.

“That’s the reason we’re starting young and building up, so by the time we have an NRLW team, a lot of the girls will have played for the Storm Under 17s, Under 19s, all the way up. That is the intention, to have as many Victorian girls as possible.

“The fact that both of our pathways, men and women, girls and boys are going to be based here, tells the girls instantly that they’re valued. We’re not throwing it down the road, they’re going to be based here with the boys. The fact they get recognition and have also that connection piece – this is one of Melbourne Storm’s homes. That is going to help them aspire to play in the NRLW.”

The Melbourne Storm at the opening of their new facility.
The Melbourne Storm at the opening of their new facility.

For Storm Female Pathways Manager Pauline Poloai, the State Rugby League and Community Centre is an opportunity to provide girls with the same opportunities as boys coming through the pathways in Victoria.

“Here in Victoria, over 1000 female participants just speaks volumes to girls wanting to get into rugby league,” she explained. “For these girls from Victoria it’s about also showcasing to their family, putting us on that biggest stage and actually being able to be proud of putting on that purple jersey, just as the boys do.

“Now that we’ve got a proper pathway for these girls, we’ve had a lot of turn-over in cross code from a lot of our players. A lot of rugby union girls coming into the Storm system, for example. The Storm system in itself, the name, the brand, the IP it comes with – a lot of people want to buy into that and want to buy into the culture.

“So for us and for the Storm to be putting their name towards a women’s team just goes to show that women actually have the opportunity to be like our male first grade professional players.”

Melbourne Storm fans at the opening of their new facility.
Melbourne Storm fans at the opening of their new facility.

Footy participation is booming in Victoria. There are 21 percent more registered players in 2024 than last year overall and female teams in particular are growing rapidly with a 42 percent increase on last season, compared to 15.4 percent growth nationally.

In addition to the Melbourne Storm pathways, the facility is set to become the home of local club Northern Thunder, who have themselves grown substantially in the past few seasons.

Northern Thunder players Turou George and Tianah Te’o spoke to about their excitement for the opening of the State Rugby League and Community Centre, and what it means for them and their burgeoning careers.

“It’s very exciting,” George said, “because this is the first facility that we’ve had.

“I’d probably cry if I played for the Storm. Like, well, I made it. I really just want to make my parents proud. It would mean that all the hard work paid off.

“It would mean everything just being able to represent where we come from,” Te’o explained. “Not having to go somewhere else and move away from your family, just playing here, with our family, everyone that’s watched us grow up and play.

“It’s cool to think about, especially that we’ll be role models for the girls coming up as well one day.”

Poloai has been involved in rugby league in Melbourne for 13 years. There are not many people better placed to put into context the sacrifices these players make – and what it means to see the pieces put in place for them to be overcome.

“These girls are doing year 12. They’ve shown up to school, come straight to training, do training. Some live in the south-eastern suburbs, some live in the north. So some have to catch a train to training, then have to wait for parents to take them back – and that’s an hour drive.

“For us affiliated states, a lot of our programs are user paid. These girls are paying all this money over their lifetime – to then not have to worry about paying for anything – is a relief for them, and also their parents. Because they’re the ones that put their bodies on the line, they’re the ones that have to sacrifice a lot, so it’s not easy.

“I know that these girls would be absolutely thrilled to wear that purple jersey one day.”

Acknowledgement of Country

Melbourne Storm respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.