Aerial weapon Warbrick for Storm debut in season opener
The inclusion of hulking Olympian Will Warbrick will be a welcomes sight on the wing for injury-ravaged Melbourne when they open the NRL season against Parramatta on Thursday night.
The Storm have nine of their top-30 squad sidelined with injury, repeating last year's horror injury toll, and needed three NRL exemptions to fill the squad for the Bankwest Stadium clash.
Centre Young Tonumaipea, rookie utility forward Bronson Garlick and second rower Chris Lewis have all been elevated into the main group.
Warbrick, who won a silver medal with the New Zealand rugby sevens team at the 2020 Tokyo Games, was set for his first NRL match last season but suffered various leg injuries which wrecked his chances.
Halfback Jahrome Hughes said the delay to the 24-year-old's debut had some up-side, with Warbrick learning his new code away from the spotlight in the Queensland Cup, where he played 14 games with the Storm's feeder team.
"He trained really well during the off-season and I think the extra year of experience in rugby league really helped him because it's easy to forget that was his first year in rugby league last year," Hughes told AAP.
"It was always going to be tough, but he's done a great job but I feel like this year he's really ready to step up and you can tell by the way he's training and the last two games he's played."
Covering the loss of home-grown talent Dean Ieremia, who ruptured his ACL in a pre-season match, Warbrick has taken an unusual path to the NRL.
Before focusing on rugby sevens he played junior rugby league and then switched to Australian rules football in the AFL New Zealand premiership, where he won the rising star award and even toured Melbourne with the NZ national team.
With that background, he and the Storm's other starting winger, Queensland representative Xavier Coates, who also stands 194cm, are set to pose a huge aerial threat.
The Storm's attack looked a little clunky in their final pre-season hit-out, against the Warriors, but came good in the second half with Warbrick among the tryscorers.