A TOP-SECRET computer program is helping the Melbourne Storm find and sign the NRL’s next stars on bargainbasement deals.
Based on NFL and English Premier League technology, the hi-tech software has already delivered the club some of their biggest names, including a Broncos reject named Cameron Munster for just $5000.
This high-level artificial intelligence system has them poised for more finals success this season. Unofficially called the “Needle in a Haystack’’, a potentially multimillion-dollar algorithm within the program sorts through data before predicting which rugby league nobodies will become future stars.
Tui Kamikamica, Tom Eisenhuth, Marion Seve and Suliasi Vunivalu were all unwanted players who signed on to play for the Storm for free. The computer program is so secret that “few’’ outside Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy knew of its existence until today.
“Its proper name is the Melbourne Storm Decision Making Support System,’’ Melbourne recruitment manager Paul Bunn said. “We gave it a real boring, cumbersome name so that nobody takes notice of it. We don’t want anyone else looking at it and we have never shared it with anyone.
“Only a few people even know it exists and only a couple have seen it.’’
As part of an exclusive behind-thescenes look at the Storm, the Melbourne recruitment guru revealed the secret software had delivered the Storm the likes of Munster, Ryan Papenhuyzen and Josh Addo-Carr.
“The program identifies talent for us,’’ Bunn said. “It is a decision-making process system that picks the needle in the haystack. It helps us find that onein-a-thousand kid.’’
Kept under military-grade encryption on just three computers, the system has taken almost a decade to develop.
“It is something we have done ourselves,’’ Bunn said. “We designed and developed it after several trips overseas to research what the best had.
“It is based on NFL technology and Premier League. It has a bit of Liverpool and Manchester City.’’
Statistics on every representative rugby league player aged over 15 are kept on the system.
“It holds three years of data on all those players and the rest is uploaded to the cloud,’’ Bunn said. “We have stats on everything and everyone. Everyone has access to the stats but you need to know how to read them and combine them.’’
The software uses a complex algorithm to work it all out, Bunn said.
“It is connected to edit video and gives us the names and information we need,” he said.
Bunn’s signing of Munster for just $5000 is the Storm’s greatest coup.
“No one wanted Cameron,’’ Bunn said. “And he came down here on a really cheap rate. He never made a lot of rep sides as a junior. They are the ones we like because we know they have had to fight hard to get to where they are.”
Bunn and his three-man recruitment team — which includes his son and software codeveloper Geordie — have defied the salary cap to give Melbourne yet another minor premiershipwinning team. No-names such as Papenhuyzen and Jahrome Hughes were recruited to the team as replacements for Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk.
“We don’t have a territory to defend so we track and target,” he said
Coach Craig Bellamy in front of a painting of the great Storm players from the club’s history. Picture: Michael Klein