Storm continues to retain exciting young talent
Melbourne Storm has re-signed another one of its rising stars, with exciting outside back Justin O'Neill committing to the club for a further two years.by NRL
Melbourne Storm has re-signed another one of its rising stars, with exciting outside back Justin O'Neill committing to the club for a further two years.
O'Neill, who scored a hat rick of tries on the weekend against Penrith, made his first grade debut in 2010 having progressed through Storm's junior development pathway program, representing the club at U18 and U20 levels.
The speedster's form this season has raised the eyebrows of Queensland Origin selectors, with the 21-year-old already part of the Queensland Emerging Origin Squad, after playing for the Australian Junior Kangaroos in 2010.
Having fought his way back from an injury interrupted 2011, O'Neill has played an integral part in the team this season, taking his career tally to 28 appearances. One of the many highlights has been several length of field tries, courtesy of his speed and ability to position himself in the right place at the right time.
With several opposition clubs expressing interest in O'Neill, the Hughenden junior had to make a big decision, with the overriding desire to stay with the club that has developed him into a regular NRL player the main factor.
"My decision to stay with Melbourne Storm was based on many factors, but the most important was the culture which the players and staff have created," O'Neill said.
"In this environment I think can play my best football here."
Melbourne Storm Head Coach, Craig Bellamy, expressed how pleased he was the club was able to secure the signature of O'Neill.
"Justin is a bright young talent who is playing consistent first grade and we believe will only get better with more NRL experience," Bellamy said.
"He has great speed and very good awareness of where to position himself to capitalise on opportunities."
In further good news for Melbourne Storm, Tohu Harris has also re-signed with the club for an additional two years.
Harris, part of the full time NRL squad, is another player who has successfully come through Storm's development program after being recruited from New Zealand by the club's late recruitment manager Darren Bell.
The up-and-coming forward represented the Junior Kiwis squad in 2011, rewarding the Hawk's Bay junior for a very good year in Dean Pay's NYC team. After starting the season strongly in NYC, Harris is currently recovering from a knee injury and will be looking to return to the field later this year.
"I'm very excited to be staying with Melbourne Storm for the next couple of years and now my focus will be on rehab and getting back on the field," said Harris.
"Being part of the NRL full time squad has made a big difference, especially being around blokes like Ryan Hoffman in pre-season and now Sika Manu in the rehab squad, they have helped me get through the intensity of the training required to play NRL.
"Melbourne Storm coaching staff have been terrific, Dean Pay and Adam O'Brien in particular, I'm very grateful for their help and personal guidance with my footy."
Bellamy was also equally pleased with the re-signing of Harris.
"Tohu is a good young player who we believe can play regular first grade," Bellamy said.
"There was a lot of interest out there, so we are very pleased he decided to stay with Melbourne Storm and we are looking forward to him turning into a consistent NRL player."
Storm GM Football Operations, Frank Ponissi, was delighted with the confirmation of the signatures, further endorsing the club's focus of retaining these exciting youngsters who have progressed through the development system.
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