The NRL’s Melbourne Storm have partnered up with health promotion group Deadly Choices with a goal to improve Indigenous health.

Before their match on Saturday, the Storm will highlight the work of Deadly Choices by wearing specially branded jerseys at their Captain’s Run training session.

The ladder-leading team will wear their 2021 Indigenous jerseys in the round 18 clash against the Newcastle Knights, with Deadly Choices messaging featuring during the game-day presentation.

Deadly Choices is an initiative of the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health and aims to empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to make healthy choices for themselves and their families.

One of Deadly Choice’s founders and former Broncos player Ian Lacey spoke to NIT and said Storm’s CEO reached out to the program to bring the partnership together, which will be launched this week.

“[The partnership is] going to allow us to use the Storm’s IP for our health check shirts, which is one of the driving forces behind what Deadly Choices provides for our community,” Lacey told NIT.

“We are also looking at some sort of community engagement with the Storm, working in partnership with The Victorian Aboriginal Health Service in Melbourne.”

Lacey spoke about the start of the program in 2010 when the they first started working on the ground in southeast Queensland doing community engagement activities. He told NIT how that progressed to working with sporting clubs like the Broncos.

“I used to be at the Broncos, and Steve Renouf who is obviously a well known Broncos player, we had some personal connection to the Broncos through Sam Thaiday,” he told the NIT.

“We started inviting most people along to some of the Deadly Choices activities and … the uptake in terms of community engagement and participation was significantly more by having those people involved in events.”

Lacey explained how professional sports players have similar values to what the program promotes like exercising regularly, eating good food, not smoking and accessing the doctor for regular health checks. He said it was a natural push to promote the program through them.

“We sort of determined that we had a pretty viable model in the sense of using professional sportspeople and sporting clubs, as a vehicle to engage our people into the conversation around practising good health, learning how to lead a healthy life and how to put some of the content into practice,” he said.

“Over the years we’ve obviously had to start to cater to all the community members that don’t like the NRL or were born in a space of AFL and netball.

“It just made sense that we had to start to branch out to some of the other professional sporting brands across the country to involve them and see if they’re willing to take part in what we’re trying to achieve in this space.”

The off-field partnership with Deadly Choices will remain for the rest of the 2021 season with long-term collaboration in the works.

By Teisha Cloos