The NSW Blues have been named for the first game of the 2017 #Origin series.
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Melbourne Storm has retained the services of highly sought after Kiwi forwards David Kidwell and Alex Chan, after both players today agreed to stay with the club beyond the 2004 season.
Kidwell has quashed recent speculation that he would be departing the Storm after agreeing to terms to a new three-year deal today, keeping the New Zealand international in Melbourne until 2007.
Similarly Chan, who has been in outstanding form since crossing to the Storm from Parramatta at the end of last season, has re-signed for a further two seasons.
After stints with the now defunct Adelaide Rams, the Eels, the Roosters and Warrington in the English Super League, Kidwell has finally found his home with the Storm.
?It?s a big relief and a weight off my shoulders to call Melbourne home for the next three years,? said Kidwell, who is currently in his second year with the Storm.
?Canberra put forward a pretty lucrative deal but money isn?t everything and I?m very settled down here. It?s really good stability, I have a little daughter and another one on the way and the thought of packing up again and moving somewhere else to start all over again wasn?t an option I was particularly keen on.
?I?m really loving Melbourne at the moment, I just love the feel about the place, the boys are a tight-knit bunch of guys, the coaching staff is great and my family is really settled here. This will be the club that I?ve spent the most time at so I?m pretty pleased,? the 28-year-old added.
After a five-year absence Kidwell returned to the Kiwi Test side this year and admits he has revelled in the relative anonymity of AFL-mad Melbourne.
?Down here in Melbourne the spotlight isn?t really on you like it is in Sydney so you can switch on when it?s time to play footy and switch off and relax other times,? Kidwell explained.
?Being around good coaches and good players really helps your career and lifts the level of your game and that?s what happened with me since moving to the Storm.?
Chan has overcome a horror run of injury in recent years, including three broken arms in two seasons with the Eels, to form a vital part of the Storm?s forward pack in 2004.
"I?m very happy with the security for the next two years, the way that I?ve been treated from day one down here (in Melbourne) has made it easy for me to make the decision to stay,? Chan said.
?The club has shown a lot of faith in me and it?s made my decision a lot easier than I thought it would be, certainly it wasn?t as hard as this time last year.?
After the uncertainty of leaving Parramatta at season?s end last year, the 29-year-old has resurrected his career since joining the Storm and believes the club?s future looks extremely promising.
?I was really coming down to Melbourne on the blind, firstly with regards to the city itself and then coming to a whole new regime at the club, but everything has been great, I never expected it to be as good as it has been,? Chan added.
?There?s a great feeling at the club right now and hopefully we can keep the current crew together and keep on progressing over the next couple of years.?
Meanwhile inaugural Storm prop Robbie Kearns will have scans on his injured left eye tomorrow.
Storm medical staff are hopeful Kearns is cleared of a fracture to his left eye socket after the former Australian front-rower was forced from the field during the first half of Friday night?s big win over Penrith following a clash with Panthers substitute Shane Rodney.