2020 NRL Grand Final - Panthers v Storm
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 25: Cameron Smith of the Storm holds aloft the Premiership trophy and celebrates with team mates after winning the 2020 NRL Grand Final match between the Penrith Panthers and the Melbourne Storm at ANZ Stadium on October 25, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

The Melbourne Storm have announced the start of their new academy as they look to give young players a new pathway to playing in the purple and gold.

The initial group going into the academy was also revealed to be 12 players from Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, and New Zealand, with the aim being for them to make up a part of the Storm's Jersey Flegg squad in 2023.

The youngsters will be mentored by two former Storm players in their coach Matt Duffie, and their Recruitment and Pathways Manager, Tim Glasby, whose experience will be invaluable to everyone making their way through.

Storm CEO Justin Rodski noted to the Storm Website the club's prior ability to produce young talent before the NYC competition ended in 2017; now, he's aiming to get the club back to that standard.

“The Storm Academy is something we are very passionate about and represents the future of Melbourne Storm,” Rodski said.

“Our Academy members will receive the intensive coaching and education they need to become elite players well versed in what we do as a club on and off the field.

“We believe there is a clear connection between developing homegrown players and our club's overall success.

“If you look at our 2020 premiership players, the vast majority had never played in the NRL before coming to Storm, including a number of our under-20s graduates.

“The end of the NYC competition had created a gap in our pathways, and now that has been filled.

“While we are increasing our focus on producing our own NRL players, there will always be a home for more experienced recruits here in Melbourne. That tradition has existed since day one of Storm and will continue in the future.”

Rodski makes plenty of solid points here, especially about the players in their 2020 premiership-winning side, which boasted, amongst others, Ryan Papenhuyzen, Cameron Munster and Cameron Smith, all as players who debuted only ever played for the Storm.

The Storm CEO continued to highlight the importance of Victorian talent in this program, an especially pressing point as only three Victorians are in the Melbourne-based side's squad at this stage.

“Since Storm's inception, we have fielded only four Victorian-raised players and that's a figure which must go much higher for the game to develop here in our home state and for Storm to continue to prosper,” Rodski continued.

“We want rugby league in Victoria to be strong and that will help Storm to stay strong.

“Pleasingly we have three Victorians who are part of the Academy program and we also currently have three Victorians in our wider NRL squad for 2023 – Dean Ieremia, Young Tonumaipea and Sua Fa'alogo. We'd love to see that number be substantially more in the future.”

After a disappointing end to their 2022 season by their mighty standards, and with the sheer amount of experience the side is losing next season, this new academy will give the Storm something to fall back on in the coming years and will finally look to expand the game in Victoria once again.