The pathway to the NRL became a far easier one for Central Coast juniors with the announcement that the Country Rugby League (CRL) and the Melbourne Storm have formed an alliance to establish the Central Coast Storm Rugby League Club commencing in Season 2007.
Under the arrangement, Melbourne Storm will provide funding and elite coaching to Central Coast junior representative teams with the Central Coast Rip junior representative sides to be known as the Central Coast Storm from season 2007 onwards.
CRL Chief Executive Terry Quinn said: “The CRL are excited and enthusiastic at the Storm becoming the newest member of the Country Rugby League community.
“The partnership will be beneficial to the Central Coast in that it will offer the local players a clearer pathway to elite level competition, and hopefully the NRL.
“It enables young players to be able to stay on the Coast and play at the highest level possible.”
“This arrangement will compliment the significant inroads the Storm has made in developing Rugby League at grass roots levels in Victoria where participation rates in schools have tripled in the past two years.
“Our Victorian representative sides have made outstanding improvement in all representative carnivals this year and we will continue to develop and nurture home grown talent, at the same time expanding the pool of youngsters to ensure the Storm's on field success.
“We see ourselves as a national team and the Central Coast is a traditional rugby league heartland for the Melbourne Storm to grow its brand.
“We are also thrilled to give the 400,000 Central Coast residents a representative side in the State's Premier Competition to support along with an NRL team.”
The Central Coast Storm will field Harold Matthews, SG Ball and Jersey Flegg teams in next year's NSWRL competitions, with the plan for a Premier League side to be established for Season 2008. Under this arrangement the Central Coast Storm will be the Melbourne Storm's feeder Club from 2008 onwards.
Former Melbourne Storm backrower and Muswellbrook junior Jamie Feeney has been appointed coach of the Jersey Flegg team. In his role Jamie will also oversee the fitness and conditioning of the Harold Matthews and SG Ball junior programs.