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St Helens set to miss out on NRL star despite £3.1 million deal

Melbourne Storm star Justin Olam has been heavily linked with a move to St Helens since the end of the season.

The Saints have been in the market for a centre due to the departure of Will Hopoate. The Saints have left the number three jersey vacant ahead of the new Super League season and are looking to sign a centre.

Warrington Wolves were also interested in the centre but now Olam is set to complete a swap deal to join Wests Tigers with Shawn Blore headed the other way.

This is despite initial reports that the $6 million move for Penrith Panthers star Jarome Luai to Wests which is worth around £3.1 million would mean the Tigers could not afford the move for Olam.

But reports down under have revealed that they will be signing Olam ahead of the 2024 season in a potential blow for St Helens.

This does mean Olam will miss out on a historic fixture however. Melbourne Storm will play the Newcastle Knights in the first-ever NRL-sanctioned rugby league match in Fiji in February 2024.

The match will be played on Saturday 24 February at Churchill Park, Lautoka, and will be the club’s second trial in preparation for the 2024 season.

Storm CEO, Justin Rodski, and Fiji Bati Captain and Storm player, Tui Kamikamica, were in Fiji to announce details of the groundbreaking match alongside Fiji’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Tourism and Civil Aviation, Hon. Viliame Gavoka, Fiji Airways Chief Marketing and Customer Officer, Akuila Batiweti, and Tourism Fiji CEO, Brent Hill.

“We are very excited about bringing the first ever NRL match to Fiji,” Rodski said.

“The support of Fiji Airways and Tourism Fiji has helped to make this groundbreaking match become a reality and we can’t wait to give Fijians the opportunity to see their NRL stars up close and personal.

“We already have a lot of Fijian talent within our game, and this serves as an incredible opportunity to not only grow the sport we love but help develop the next wave of talent and hopefully give more young men and women the chance to play NRL or NRLW.”

Storm will spend the week leading into the match in Fiji to connect with the local Fijian community, engaging with schools and local rugby league clubs to provide inspiration and a pathway to those want to play in the NRL. The Club will also take 160 members of the Storm Executive Club to Fiji as part of their annual business networking initiative.

Storm will also wear a specially designed training t-shirt during the week and the match ball will carry traditional Fiji artwork to recognise the significance of the match.

Fiji Airways Chief Marketing and Customer Officer, Akuila Batiweti, said at the launch: “Fiji Airways is delighted to partner in bringing an NRL-preseason game to our shores, reinforcing our commitment to local communities and showcasing Fiji’s potential in sports tourism. As sponsors of the Melbourne Storm, we invite fans to get on our flights to Fiji to witness top-tier rugby league.”

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Civil Aviation, Hon. Viliame Gavoka, said: “There is no better time to leverage major events. We have done in the past and will continue to do so. Our aim is to position Fiji as a destination of choice for such events and to ensure the benefits are far reaching with long lasting impact beyond tourism numbers.”

Tourism Fiji CEO, Brent Hill, echoed the Minister’s sentiment: “This historic NRL clash aligns with our strategic efforts to showcase Fiji’s versatility and unique offerings. We believe this event will not only captivate sports enthusiasts but will also spotlight Fiji as a destination that seamlessly blends adventure and relaxation.”

“Rugby league is a fast-growing sport in Fiji and we hope this trial game can be the launching pad for future NRL content to be played here in Fiji.” Rodski said.

“The NRL has been working incredibly hard to expand the game internationally, to bring more fans to the game and hopefully deepen our talent pool. They have been very supportive of our plans to play in Fiji and we think this game will be a great way to fast track some of their plans.”

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