INSIDE THE STORM’S RUTHLESS ROSTER MANAGEMENT
MUCH of Melbourne’s on-field success has been credited to the Big Three – Cameron Smith, Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk.
But the Storm’s excellence continues to endure even though they have all now moved on.
From secret dossiers compiled on recruitment targets, taking a moneyball approach to recruitment and coach Craig Bellamy personally rubber stamping each signing, Fatima Kdouh reveals, for the first time, how the Storm manages its roster.
RECRUITMENT Background checks and dossiers
It could take months, even years before a player knows he is on the
Storm’s radar. Recruitment manager Paul Bunn, general manager of football Frank Ponissi, coach Craig Bellamy and the football department build a dossier on their target.
From background checks to character references and skills assessments. “We have a scout in Brisbane, who does a lot of that for us,” Bunn said.
“But between myself, Craig, Frank and the other coaches in our system we manage to get a really good dossier on a player even before we decide how interested we might be in them. We make sure the character and the attitude the player has actually fits what Craig and Frank wants and what our system requires.
“Of course, they have to display some sort of football ability.”
Take Clive Churchill medallist Ryan Papenhuyzen, who was an injury-prone wiry teen playing at Wests Tigers when he was identified as a serious prospect.
“When he was about 17, we started tracking him. But we don’t sign them that young,” Bunn revealed.
“We were looking for someone similar to Billy Slater. Paps was one of our targets. He had speed, the willingness to compete.”
FINAL SAY The job interview
Bellamy and Ponissi make it a priority to meet every single player that will potentially wear the purple of the Storm, before a contract is officially put on the table.
It doesn’t matter whether it’s a train-and-trial or a long-term deal on offer.
“Both Craig and Frank meet every player before we sign them and that’s important because they become invested in them too,” Bunn said.
“And they’re very good at working out a player’s character. Even though we’ve had to do them over Zoom in recent times, they still want to do it.”
MONEYBALL Roster management
NRL roster management is more than an art, with the abundance of data and information, it is now a finely tuned skill. Finding a balance between star power and raw value takes expertise. Bunn revealed that a moneyball approach – finding talent that
is undervalued – is a deliberate recruitment strategy at Melbourne.
More than half of the Storm’s current roster has been identified using the moneyball approach.
“That’s a deliberate focus we have, it’s part of our direct recruiting model,” Bunn said.
“Everyone has stats, so you can measure the value of someone’s output easily if you know the market value of players and then if you can project what they will deliver in your system. You’re likely to get a bargain or someone who’s price tag is less than their output.
“Someone like Jahrome Hughes initially came to us as a player who we knew we’d get more value out of than his price tag.”