Storm search for next Slater in Qld

A day after re-signing Billy Slater, Melbourne Storm are on the lookout for another superstar and again it’s right under their Queensland NRL rivals’ noses.

In a wake-up call to Brisbane and Gold Coast, Melbourne have announced they will establish a Storm Academy on the Sunshine Coast from 2016.

Along with the Academy, the Storm will relocate their National Youth Competition under-20s side to Caloundra’s Sunshine Coast Stadium from next year.

Still buzzing from re-signing Slater for another two years, Melbourne boss Dave Donaghy hoped the “NRL-first” move would help maintain the Storm’s happy knack of unearthing NRL superstars in Queensland.

North Queensland born Slater famously slipped past the Cowboys while the Broncos missed out on Logan-bred Test captain Cameron Smith and Australian halfback Cooper Cronk.

“There’s some boldness about this,” Donaghy told AAP.

“We have done research in Queensland and it shows we are well liked for good reason, we have three of the greatest Queensland players ever.

“All that will assist making this a success.

“The junior development pathways are very competitive.

“There could be stronger regulation around the junior pathways and that is being looked at by the NRL.

“For our club it means you want to be front of mind when the kids are making decisions on where they want to play their football.”

Donaghy said they decided to make Caloundra their major junior recruitment and development base after consultation with European football clubs.

“Have a look at Manchester City who we have worked closely with through our chairman Bart Campbell,” Donaghy said.

“They have established a number of academies around the world, they are about expanding their reach and growing their profile and making sure the elite kids are coming through.

“The better clubs have got long-established academies that are bringing through players constantly.

“For us it is was a no brainer. Not to dismiss NSW or Victoria but Queensland and New Zealand are predominant areas (of recruitment) for us.”

Donaghy gave a guarantee that Victorians would still feature in their junior development and confirmed Melbourne would continue to fund their under 16 and 18s Victorian programs.

Former Test forward Matt Adamson will head the Storm Academy at Caloundra, home of the Storm’s feeder Queensland Cup club Sunshine Coast Falcons.

Donaghy claimed the Broncos and Titans were “comfortable” with their move.

“I spoke with both clubs. I think there are enough players in Queensland to accommodate it – it will probably benefit the local community because kids won’t have to relocate,” he said.

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