He’s only been at the club for two days but new recruit Shawn Blore has already impressed his Storm teammates, with the former Tiger a chance of breaking into Melbourne’s starting side if he can dominate the next six weeks.
Blore joined the Storm last week on a three-year deal after a swap deal saw hard-hitting centre Justin Olam head to the Tigers after months of speculation that the pair would switch places.
Olam spent six seasons in Melbourne but fell out of favour last year which saw him dropped to Queensland Cup for six games before he returned for the finals.
UFC 297: STRICKLAND VS DU PLESSIS | SUN 21st JAN | Order Now with Main Event on Kayo Sports. Main Event on Kayo Sports and Foxtel is the new exclusive home of UFC Pay-Per-View events!
“I know ‘Juzzi’ loved the Storm, and on his final day he was tearing up when talking to the group. I think he understood the situation and full credit to him because he was really professional about it all,” Storm prop Christian Welch said.
“It’s a pretty bittersweet thing because everyone at the club is pretty excited to get Shawn in.
“He started on Monday and he seems like a really good fella and a great addition to our club, but at the same time, Olam has been at the club for a long time and is highly respected and really loved by the playing group.
“It’s a bit sad to see him move on, but we wish him all the best and I know he’ll do really well at the Tigers.”
With Olam gone, Nick Meaney is expected to make the move to left centre where he could line up alongside a new face in the back row with Trent Loiero tipped to shift to the middle in 2024.
That could open the door for Blore to come straight into the side, but Welch – speaking from Geelong where the Storm have started a two-week intensive camp – said there was plenty of competition.
Jack Howarth, 21, was signed on a monster contract but couldn’t crack the 17 until the final round of the 2023 season where he impressed on the edge, while Joe Chan also looked good that night in Brisbane.
“The back row is pretty competitive,” Welch said, with the trials set to play a key role in working out who starts in the second row.
“You’ve got Jack Howarth who’s a highly-touted junior and had a great debut at Suncorp last year. Joey Chan also had a great debut and then you’ve got Shawn Blore.
“There’s still a bit of time for this to play out because we’ve got a decent chunk of January to go and then those two trial games which will be really interesting for our back-rowers to try to grab that spot in the pack next to Eli Katoa.
“I reckon that’s where you’ll see the emergence of some younger guys who don’t have the biggest names but have been working really hard.”
The back row was always going to be an issue for the Storm with veterans Felise Kaufusi and Kenny Bromwich moving on, but former Warrior Eli Katoa proved his worth on the right edge with a terrific finish to the season.
He scored five tries in a four-game stretch and struck up a solid combination with halfback Jahrome Hughes in the attacking 20.
He had a whole pre-season to work with Hughes, unlike Blore who has started a bit later than the Storm would have liked, but the club is confident the 23-year-old has the skill and hunger to learn the system in time for round one.
“Eli showed last year how quickly he picked up the Storm system and what we want from our forwards,” Welch said.
“Time is of the essence for Shawn because Eli started with us before Christmas whereas he’s come in towards the backend of pre-season so he’s got a fair bit of learning to do.
“He seems like a ripping guy and is really keen for the challenge. I’m sure he’ll play a really big part for us this season.”
Source website: www.foxsports.com.au