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Melbourne Storm And Coles Extend First Nations Pathway Program

M
elbourne Storm and Coles have extended its First Nations pathways program to support indigenous aspiring athletes over the next three years, including support for education, employment and health and wellbeing outcomes.

The partnership aspires to help young indigenous rugby league players realise their dreams of becoming NRL players in the future.

The Storm First Nations Pathway Program aligns with Coles Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander plan established in 2010, launching in 2011 to drive Indigenous employment, supply chain and partnerships.

With the support of Coles, the Storm First Nations Pathway Program will assist with relocation, cultural and wellbeing support, training, work experience, mentoring, education and learn from some of the best players and coaches in the league.

The partnership was officially launched at Melbourne Storm training by three of Melbourne’s current indigenous stars, Josh Addo-Carr, Reimis Smith, and Nicho Hynes, who announced the programs’ first participants.

The inaugural indigenous talent selected for the program is 19-year-old Noongar man, Ammaron (AJ) Gudgeon, who has played for the CQ Capras in Rockhampton and 19-year-old Kulkalgal man Seamus King-Smith from the Northern Pride, based in Cairns.

The two will be part of Storm’s 2022 NRL pre-season and annual Geelong camp, working with coach Craig Bellamy and coaching staff alongside the NRL team, training sessions, team meetings and club events.

Storm, CEO, Justin Rodski said Storm’s First Nations Pathway Program would provide emerging indigenous talent with the opportunity to have a wholly immersive experience at the club, focusing on professional and personal development, mentoring, elite training and preparation.

“We’re very excited and proud to be launching this program and partnership with Coles over an initial three-year period,” Mr Rodski said.

“Coles, like our organisation, is genuine and committed to supporting Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islander people and communities right across Australia.

“By creating a First Nations talent pathway and utilising the resources we have here at Storm, we hope more indigenous kids will have NRL careers, and hopefully, many will be wearing our famous purple jersey.

“This is a first for our club and is part of a broad range of initiatives and programs we will be focusing on into the future, including starting our new health-focused partnership with Deadly Choices.

“The partnership with Coles is ground-breaking and reflects both organisations’ investment into providing mentoring and professional development opportunities for young talent in indigenous communities and providing a worthwhile immersion experience in Melbourne to support their footballing dreams.

“Our recruitment and development staff will identify those players with potential, and then they will get an opportunity to be immersed in our club, learning and developing their skills, on and off the field, in an elite environment.

Coles, Chief Marketing Officer, Lisa Ronson, said: “Coles is excited to partner on this program to inspire and support young Indigenous footballers to help realise their dreams of playing NRL.

“Supporting Indigenous communities is something we are passionate about at Coles,” Ms Ronson said.

“We have a proud history of taking action and forming strong relationships with the Indigenous community, and that commitment extends to working better together to ensure that we continue to grow our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders team members representation in our stores and in trade and management roles, and to support Indigenous suppliers.