Jason Ryles will take the reigns as coach when Melbourne Storm travel to Rotorua for their trial match against the New Zealand Warriors on February 17.
The night before Craig Bellamy will be looking to guide his side to victory in the World Club Challenge against Leeds Rhinos at AAMI Park.
Ryles said he is looking forward to the chance to step into the coaching seat when he takes the team across the ditch.
“It is going to be an exciting experience and a good opportunity for myself but certainly the players to start playing again this year and blow a few cobwebs out,” Ryles said.
“There are a lot of things that are different (as a head coach), from making sure everything is planned before game day to speaking to players before the game and after the game.
“I won’t have Craig and the other assistants there to help out so it is a good challenge and something to look forward to.”
While Storm will be looking to name their strongest possible line-up for the World Club Challenge, the Rotorua trial shapes as a vital part of the Club’s Round 1 preparations.
The hit-out will provide a great chance for Melbourne’s younger players as well as those not selected in the World Club Challenge to press their claims for a spot in the NRL side for the season opener in Perth.
“It is a really important trial for us in regards to the guys who are unfortunate to not make the World Club Challenge team and also the younger guys that are coming through,” Ryles said.
“The main thing for the players is the opportunity to play in the Storm jersey and then also it is important that they play well and put their best foot forward for selection in the NRL team.
“Often you see guys start the year in these trials and all of a sudden before you know it by Round 11, Round 15 or even later in the year they get an opportunity in the NRL and end up playing out the season there.”
The Storm side in Rotorua will also include some players from feeder clubs Easts Tigers and Sunshine Coast Falcons, further strengthening the partnership with the Club’s Queensland Cup affiliates.
Melbourne will arrive in Roturua on the Thursday and will be taking part in community-based activities before taking on the Warriors on February 17 at Rotorua International Stadium. Tickets can be purchased here.