NRL teams to snub World Club Challenge
Photo Source: AAP
The NRL have been forced to search for two clubs to participate in the annual World Club Challenge after 2016 runners-up Melbourne snubbed an invite on Monday.
Storm CEO Dave Donaghy said that with a number of their stars already travelling to England for the upcoming Four Nations tour, the club opted to prepare for their 2017 campaign at home.
"As a club, we've decided that staying in Australia will provide our team with the best possible preparation for the 2017 NRL season," Donaghy said.
"Having treasured past visits to the UK in 2008, 2010 and 2013, we thoroughly value the concept of the World Club Challenge.
"However a regular NRL season is already incredibly taxing and, as a non-Sydney team, our players travel more than most."
The Storm's snub of the six-team tournament is sure to raise the validity of the Challenge, with this season's top eight teams reportedly reluctant to travel to England in February.
NRL premiers Cronulla are locked in to face Super League champions Wigan, however the NRL will now have to look at the bottom half of their table to represent Australia.
Top eight finishers Canberra, North Queensland, Brisbane, Penrith, Canterbury and Gold Coast are all understood to be hesitant on participating in the tournament.
Donaghy said staying at home would be a more prudent way for the Storm to prepare for 2017.
"We have committed to playing two trial matches in Australia which we believe will serve as a better lead-in for the team ahead of next year's opening round," he said.
"We wish Cronulla all the best as the NRL's representative against the champion team of England, Wigan."
The Storm have a total of five players representing Australia and New Zealand in this weekend's Test match in Perth, before the sides meet again in the Four Nations later this month.
The Sydney Roosters' participation in the 2016 series in February, where they beat St Helens 38-12, may back up the clubs' concerns about player burn-out close to the season opener.
The 2015 minor premiers lost the first eight games of the season, although there were other contributing factors to their poor start including Mitchell Pearce's suspension.
Fellow participants Brisbane and North Queensland fared considerably better, with the 2015 premiers winning three of their five NRL starts in 2016 and the Broncos four.