When you sign to play with Melbourne Storm, you better pack a pair of work boots.
Like many players before them, 13 of our new boys ventured into the world of full-time, labour-intensive work alongside their pre-season training duties as a part of the New Recruit Work Program.
Started 18-years ago by our very own head coach, Craig Bellamy, the program sees new Storm recruits – regardless of reputation or experience – take on two 40-hour work weeks.
The goal? Teach them about hard-work and gratitude.
“We like all our new players whether they’re an 18-year-old that just left school or a 30-year-old that has been at other clubs. We just want to try and give them a bit of perspective on life.” Bellamy said about the program.
“Our life as a footy club can be a bit of bubble at times, but there’s a lot of other things, a lot of other important things happening outside our bubble. Outside footy.”
A Day in the Life
Their challenging days begin with a gym session from 5am-6.30am. For many, that’s enough to send shivers down a spine.
From there, the boys head off to their work site where they’ll clock in until about 2pm.
One requirement Bellamy makes sure of is all work must be hard, outdoors and labour-intensive. Over the years recruits have opted for all kinds of roles including concreters, plumbers, landscapers, and even groundskeepers at Werribee Racecourse.
After work they head back to AAMI Park where they end the day with meetings and conditioning.
If you’re exhausted after hearing about their day, don’t worry, we are too!
No Player Left Behind
Now an annual initiation tradition, no player gets left behind.
While the pandemic put a stop to our previous program, it didn’t prevent last year’s new recruits from having to put in a hard day's work this year.
This year's program featured current players Jack Howarth and Jonah Pezet, alongside new recruits Xavier Coates, Will Warbick, Jayden Nikorima, Jordan Grant, Josh King and Nick Meany.
Howarth and Pezet gave us their honest review of the program after a fortunate year of full-time footy...
“It's been fun and tough at the same time.” Howarth said.
It’s been a good experience. I’ve never done anything like it. I’ve never worked a day in my life, so I now know what it’s like to get up in the morning and work.Jack Howarth on the Storm Work Program
“It’s been tough to say the least. The early 4.30am wake ups to get into the gym, then getting back in the arvo and trying to get a sleep in on the way home in the car...then going to training and getting flogged.” Pezet added.
Coming into Storm on a Train and Trial contract, Alec Macdonald took on the work program as well. Already working as an air conditioning installer, Macdonald had a handy leg up coming into the two-week intensive.
“It’s helped a lot.
“I’ve just been used to doing eight hours then going to training, but getting up to the gym at 4am has been pretty tough” Macdonald said.
Catching up with trialist Alec Macdonald
One workplace, the expansive Werribee Racecourse, hosts a handful of new recruits each year to maintain the grounds. This year our boys prepped the track for the upcoming Werribee Cup, with tickets handed out as a reward.
“We’ve been moving the rails so we took them all out last week and this week they’ve mowed the lawn so, we’re putting them all back this week. There’s been a lot of walking and a lot of moving” Pezet recalled.
Not the be all and end all
While yes, it’s tough, the program serves an especially important and valuable purpose.
It teaches the recruits the benefits of hard work, gratitude and humility. It also gives our footy staff a good insight into the kind of players they’re getting – some saying it sorts the boys from the men.
“It’s not the be all and end all being a footy player.” Bellamy stated.
It just gives them a bit more perspective on life that there’s more than footy out there and there’s a lot of people that view what they do as very important.Craig Bellamy on the Storm Work Program
While for most a 40-hour work week is the standard, Bellamy wants the boys to understand just how fortunate they are to have the rare opportunity of becoming a full-time rugby league player. Something many only dream of.
“That’s what we used to do back when the game was part-time – we used to work all day then train at night” Bellamy reminisced.
Catch up with Bellamy
Not only do our recruits learn the rarity of their position, but they also learn practical life skills.
For some, it makes career conversations a more manageable task and eases their mind on life after footy.
Some recruits unconsciously learn time management. With a few boys only just out of school, they’ve yet to experience packing their own lunches or pre-planning dinners.
Melbourne Storm has achieved a lot in our short history and there’s no doubt much of that success has come from initiatives like this, strengthening the mind and body of our players for life.