Vantage Homes Sunshine Coast Falcons back-rower Chris Lewis last week became Melbourne Storm’s latest recruit, and the third Falcon in the past 12 months to sign with the club.
Signed to a one-year development player deal, the 27-year-old was a man in demand for the 2020 season after turning down an NRL contract with the Parramatta Eels in order to continue chasing the dream at the Storm,
“I’m very excited to be down in Melbourne and learning off the coaches and players that have been at the top of the NRL for so many years. Being contracted to Melbourne is also ideal because I get to come back to the Sunshine Coast and play for the Falcons if I’m not selected each week.” Lewis said.
His signing comes at no surprise to those who watched him play for the Falcons in 2019. Out of his 24 appearances, the back-rower posted an average of 112 running meters per game (2682 total), made 636 tackles (average of 27 per game), 10 line breaks and scored 9 tries. These statistics earned him ‘Second Rower of the Year’ in the Intrust Super Cup ‘Team of the Year’, as well as the Falcon’s ‘ISC Best Forward’ award.
The news certainly came at no shock to Falcons CEO Chris Flannery,
“I definitely wasn’t surprised. I was actually surprised that a team didn’t pick him up sooner. In my opinion he has been one of the best back-rowers in the comp for the past three years and that includes NRL team’s feeder players – so I definitely wasn’t surprised to see him get signed… he deserves it.”
His signing further highlights the strong connection the Falcons having with their feeder club and the pathway available to progress from the Intrust Super Cup to the NRL. He will follow in the footsteps of other former Falcons Tui Kamikamica, Tino Fa’asuamaleaui, Nicho Hynes, Darryn Schonig, and most recently Ryley Jacks (re-sign), who were all offered full-time NRL contracts while playing for the Falcons.
Lewis, who had been working as a history and English teacher at Caloundra State High School during his time at the Falcons, is no stranger to an NRL system.
Following a year with the St George Illawarra Dragons, Lewi came to the Falcons in 2017 where he spent the 2018 pre-season training with the Storm squad and played trial games against the Newcastle Knights and New Zealand Warriors.
That pre-season was also Chris’ first taste of the Storm’s infamous ‘IDQ’ (I Don’t Quit) Camp. A camp he is hoping he will not have to repeat this pre-season, “IDQ was the toughest experience I’ve ever been through, but it also showed you how much you can get through if you are committed to a task mentally. I don’t think I’ll have to do it again, I hope.”
Current Intrust Super Cup head coach Sam Mawhinney said Lewis’ experience and work ethic had been a strong motivator around the Falcons over the past three seasons and will be dearly missed in 2020,
“He really drives and demands the high standards at training and he will definitely leave a hole in the squad. We will need a few of the other players to step up a level to pick up some of the slack Lewi will leave.”
“He has also made a point of helping a lot of the younger players to improve their training and their game by doing extra skill, weights and conditioning sessions which has been great from a club culture point of view.”
Conveniently, Lewis will be rooming with three other former Falcons during his time in Melbourne after moving in with Nicho Hynes, Darryn Schonig and 18-year-old young-gun Trent Loiero. The latter having made his Intrust Super Cup debut for the Vantage Homes Falcons last season in the ‘Country Round’ clash with Norths Devils in Nanango, “It’s great to live in a house with three blokes I know. They’re all great characters and very easy to get along with. If I can just teach Daz how to clean up after himself then I’ll be thrilled.”
Although it isn’t all bad news for Falcons’ supporters as Lewis will most likely join the likes of Harry Grant, Hynes, Schonig and other Storm-contracted players flying in weekly to play for the black and yellow.
The club is hoping to confirm their Storm allocated players and the season draw for 2020 over the coming weeks.