The decisions of NSW’s leading grammar schools to attract talented young players from the Victorian rugby league have motivated the Melbourne Storm to improve in a key area as they seek to secure long-term success.
Six Victorian players, all under the age of 15, were recently recruited by Keebra High School, some as young as 13 and a seventh may soon be on their way north.
That’s why the NRL powerhouse recently decided to strengthen the paths of home-grown Victorian players by making a significant change to its youth teams.
Melbourne teams SG Ball and Jersey Flegg have been known as Thunderbolts since joining NSWRL in 2019, but have been renamed to the Melbourne Storm banner from next season.
It’s a big step forward and the club hopes emerging players see it as a clear path to take them from junior competitions all the way to NRL in the Storm system.
This has been an issue for several years, with Mahe Fonua, Young Tonumaipea, Richie Kennar and Dean Ieremia the only Victorian players to go through the local system to represent the Storm.
“Next year we reach 25 years in the competition and in 25 years we have only had four players from the Victorian system to play for the Melbourne Storm,” chief football officer Frank Ponissi told NCA. Newswire.
“We don’t think that’s enough, so we have to change it.
“We have to give young people the opportunity to play with the Melbourne Storm shirt and with that name from an early age compared to what we did. It’s part of giving them hope that it will lead them to play in the NRL.
“We had a meeting with NSWRL and they were very supportive that our teams in Victoria will now be known as Team Melbourne Storm Jersey Flegg and Team Melbourne Storm SG Ball.
“There is also a big problem where we are really committed to having a Melbourne Storm Harold Matthews Under 17 team for the next 12 months.
These moves will help create a real path to creating opportunities for children to aspire to something bigger in Victoria, with the club eager to nurture talent before other clubs try to lure them north.
“We hope that in a few years four inhabitants will become eight, then eight will become 16”, said Ponissi.
“Along the way we could look at a Melbourne Storm team where there are a lot of Victoria players. The talent is there and we just have to cultivate it.