Melbourne Storm has today launched the Storm Academy to be based in Queensland from 2016.
This NRL-first project will be the Club's major junior recruitment and development base and will provide the best possible pathway for young footballers to make it to Storm's NRL squad.
In partnership with the Sunshine Coast Council, the Storm Academy will be based at Sunshine Coast Stadium, the premier venue for sport in the area, and will have access to seven fields, swimming pools and a gymnasium.
The Storm Academy will be headed by former Australian and NSW prop Matt Adamson, coach of Storm's Under-20's in 2014, who has been based on the Sunshine Coast this season as Queensland Coaching Director. Storm will shortly announce further full-time and part-time support staff as they are appointed.
For Victorian juniors, Storm will continue to provide funding for the Under-16 and Under-18 programs, with a selected number of elite Victorian players to be guaranteed a place within the Storm Academy each year ensuring a pathway for elite Victorian players continues.
Storm is also working towards the launch of a development program that will provide local players (age 19-20) with elite coaching across a season to assist their individual development - building the local NRL Victoria competition at the same time.
In announcing today's news on the Sunshine Coast, Melbourne Storm CEO Dave Donaghy said establishment of the Storm Academy was aimed at continuing the Club's successful history of developing elite players in the right environment.
"We are excited to launch the Storm Academy, by taking Storm to a heartland area we hope to be front of mind to talented junior rugby league players, as they consider potential career opportunities and destinations," Donaghy said.
"A considerable amount of work has gone into this important decision and we believe the relocation of our NYC team will strengthen the development of our elite young talent while also giving the Club a presence in a heartland area.
"The Storm Academy will have access to some of the best sporting facilities and coupled with our program, gives our junior players every possible chance to make it to the NRL as a Storm player in the future.
"We thank the Sunshine Coast Council for their support in ensuring the program is successful.
"The NRL has talked publicly about the review they are undertaking on their pathways program and we feel this decision puts us ahead of the rest of the competition."
Sunshine Coast Mayor Mark Jamieson said the Storm's decision to base their Academy on the Sunshine Coast was a significant upgrade of the club's partnership with Council.
"This is outstanding news for the Sunshine Coast and, in particular, our sporting community and those who love the game of rugby league," Mayor Jamieson said.
"I'm sure our Coast residents will give a warm welcome to the young men who the club sign up for their Academy from outside our region.
"This initiative also gives our best young players a clear pathway to the NRL without having to leave home.
"It builds on the already established relationship Storm have with the Falcons and we hope this agreement assists in building the success of both clubs.
"Melbourne have shown tremendous foresight with this move and we thank them for the support and faith they've shown in the Sunshine Coast."
The move further strengthens Storm's relationship with a rugby league heartland where Storm has a history of successfully recruiting and developing Queensland players with three of the world's best players Cameron Smith, Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk all recruited as young talent from the sunshine state.
In Melbourne, when Storm plays at AAMI Park, members will be engaged to help determine the type of match day experience they want, with NRL Victoria matches a possibility to be featured pre-game as part of a greater engagement with the local rugby league community.