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Melbourne Storm’s preparations for the 2011 National Rugby League season have received an enormous boost with former internationals Kevin Walters and David Kidwell signing on as assistant coaches.

After an extensive search, Walters and Kidwell agreed to terms with the Storm today, with the pair set to bring with them a wealth of coaching and playing experience to Craig Bellamy’s coaching team.

Between them, Walters, a former premiership-winning captain at the Brisbane Broncos who played eight Test matches for Australia and 20 State of Origin games for Queensland, and Kidwell, who played 103 NRL games in four seasons for the Storm, appeared in more than 500 first grade games across two hemispheres.

The pair also bring with them impressive coaching credentials.

Walters recently returned to Australia following a two-year stint as head coach at English Super League club Les Catalans where he guided the Dragons to a preliminary final in his first year.

Kidwell, meanwhile, coached South Sydney’s Under-20s side in 2010, taking them to this year’s grand final where they lost to the New Zealand Warriors.

He is also the current coach of the Junior Kiwis side – proving to be an outstanding mentor to young New Zealand rugby league players having featured in 25 Tests of his own for his country.

Storm coach Craig Bellamy said he was delighted to secure the services of both Walters and Kidwell.

“We’re absolutely delighted that Kevin and David have decided to join the Storm family,” said Bellamy.

“I know Kevin and David will be able to contribute greatly to our preparations for next season and both will bring great ideas, enthusiasm, professionalism and experience to our club.”

Walters and Kidwell stood out from the high number of quality candidates that applied for the vacant roles left by former assistants Stephen Kearney and Brad Arthur.

Kearney continued the path taken by former assistant coach Michael Maguire, now head coach with English powerhouse Wigan, when he accepted the top job at Parramatta after a lengthy apprenticeship under Bellamy.

Walters starts his Melbourne coaching career on Monday, October 25, when the Storm starts pre-season training, with Kidwell to join the club’s coaching ranks on November 8 when his Junior Kiwis commitments end.

It will be a homecoming of sorts for Kidwell given his time as a Melbourne Storm player.

The Storm has also secured two exciting partnerships – across two states – by forming an alliance with Queensland Cup club Brisbane Easts Tigers, as well as NSW Cup side Cronulla.

Under the unique partnership arrangement, Storm will send NRL squad members not playing in its first-grade squad to either Cronulla or Brisbane Easts, in an arrangement set to benefit all three clubs.

Coincidentally, Walters was set to resume his Australian coaching career at Brisbane Easts, before he agreed to return to NRL level with the Storm.

Melbourne Storm CEO Ron Gauci praised Brisbane Easts and its CEO, Des Morris, for allowing Walters to accept the Storm assistant coaching role and described the new partnership arrangements as historic.

“The player development pathway presented by this historic partnership agreement will be of enormous benefit, not only to the Melbourne Storm, but also to Cronulla and Brisbane Easts,” Gauci said.

“Des Morris at Brisbane Easts and Darren Mooney at Cronulla have been extremely professional in the way they have operated and we are looking forward to working further with them as this partnership continues to grow in the future.

“We are particularly thankful to Des Morris and the Brisbane Easts Tigers Club for allowing Kevin to join the Storm and we are confident that will exemplify the pathway we want to build here for players and coaches alike.”

As a result of the partnership arrangements, Melbourne Storm will no longer field a team in the NSW Cup, having spent 2010 as a stand-alone entity in the competition, Gauci confirmed.

Gauci said the Storm was committed to its ongoing participation in the NSW Cup competition which would not be affected in any way by its involvement in the Queensland Cup.
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