Former Sunshine Coast Falcons talent Ryan Papenhuyzen. PHOTO: Warren Lynam
Former Sunshine Coast Falcons talent Ryan Papenhuyzen. PHOTO: Warren Lynam

Falcons pathway showcased in Storm v Knights clash

The region’s vital role as a stepping stone to the top flight will be on display in full force when Storm host Knights, with a bevy of former Sunshine Coast Falcons talent lacing up.

A total of 11 Melbourne players will hit the field at Sunshine Coast Stadium on Sunday night having donned a black and gold jersey in the past, with two Newcastle talents also having Coast caps to their names.

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Ryan Papenhuyzen, Suliasi Vunivalu, Justin Olam, Jahrome Hughes, Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Felise Kaufusi, Kenny Bromwich, Tino Faasuamaleaui, Brandon Smith, Tom Eisenhuth and

Nicho Hynes are in the starting squad for Storm and have varying numbers of caps for the Falcons.

Falcons Justin Olam in 2017. Picture AAP/David Clark
Falcons Justin Olam in 2017. Picture AAP/David Clark

Reserve Darryn Schonig was also a regular for the club last year.

Meanwhile, the Knights’ Kurt Mann and Hymel Hunt will run out in familiar territory at Bokarina too.

Their assistant coach Eric Smith was also coach of the Falcons in 2019.

While some have only donned a Coast jersey for a limited number of appearances, for many it was a crucial building block to gain NRL status.

Forward Nelson Asofa-Solomona in action for the Falcons in 2016. Photo: Warren Lynam / Sunshine Coast Daily
Forward Nelson Asofa-Solomona in action for the Falcons in 2016. Photo: Warren Lynam / Sunshine Coast Daily

“There’s lot of players there that wouldn’t be playing NRL if it wasn’t for a second tier competition,” Falcons chairman Ashley Robinson said.

“While some people will say a lot of those blokes are Melbourne players I just can’t stress enough that a lot wouldn’t have made it if they didn’t have those games at Intrust or NSW Cup level.”

He said the Falcons club would watch on with great pride on Sunday knowing they had played a part in helping to forge the careers of NRL quality talent.

“It’s very special,” Robinson said.

“We’ve had a long hard road the Falcons, like a lot of clubs, and with stuff like this it obviously makes it worthwhile for blokes like (CEO) Chris Flannery and our board and volunteers and sponsors that have supported us.

“It’s stuff like this on the weekend that makes it all worthwhile because you know that you’re creating a pathway.”

While there was no Intrust Super Cup this year, due to COVID-19, he said the NRL clash was a timely reminder of how vital the second tier competition was to the sport.

Kurt Mann in action for the Falcons in 2015. Photo: John McCutcheon / Sunshine Coast Daily
Kurt Mann in action for the Falcons in 2015. Photo: John McCutcheon / Sunshine Coast Daily

While keen to watch the bevy of talent in the Storm play, Robinson was pleased to see Knights’ Kurt Mann run out on Bokarina turf once again.

“When we were struggling in the early days he was one of the Melbourne players that really embraced coming up and playing,” he said.

“In the early days there were a few that didn’t want to be there but he wasn’t one of them, he always came up and gave 100 per cent which is great.

“I’m sure he’ll enjoy being back at Sunshine Coast Stadium.”

Storm will take on Knights at Sunshine Coast Stadium from 4.05pm on Sunday.

“Craig Bellamy said to me after their first game here that their players were really taken by the atmosphere at the grounds for that game against Titans because that was the first time experiencing a (great) atmosphere since COVID-19,” Robinson said.

“One of the reasons for that was that there was a lot of Falcons supporters and lot of Sunshine Coast people there that followed a number of those players and it’d be the same this weekend.”