The Courier-Mail

Storm opens door to future for junior stars

- NICK SMART

MELBOURNE Storm are set to establish a groundbrea­king NRL-first academy base in Queensland in the hopes of finding the next Cameron Smith and Billy Slater.

The Courier-Mail can reveal the Storm will soon announce that from next year they will run a junior academy in rugby league’s heartland.

They will contract 25 young players, with a number of those spots guaranteed to be Victorian players.

The Storm will maintain their links with Intrust Super Cup teams Easts Tigers and Sunshine Coast Falcons.

It is the club’s hope this will help identify the next Smith, Cooper Cronk and Slater.

“There are a number of factors that are being considered here – recruitmen­t for the NRL squad, costs and local pathways,” Storm chief executive Dave Donaghy (pictured) said.

“Queensland and New Zealand have been our core recruitmen­t zones in the past and probably will remain that way … so a larger base in one of those areas makes sense.”

Meanwhile, the Storm have bolstered their forward pack with the signing of Gold Coast prop Matt White for next season.

The 31-year-old has played 123 games for the Titans, including 13 this season.

“Matt is a player we’ve followed for a while so we are pleased to have him join the club next season,” Storm football boss Frank Ponissi said.

 ??  ?? BEST OPTION: Ray
Thompson will play five-eighth.
BEST OPTION: Ray Thompson will play five-eighth.
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