Inside the Storm's recruitment philosophy
Creating better players and people: it seems to be a hallmark of the Melbourne Storm system.
Centre Will Chambers returned to the Storm from rugby union and is now the Australian and Queensland incumbent. Tim Glasby came from the Queensland Cup and made his Origin debut this year. Young players with the right attitude – like Suliasi Vunivalu and Curtis Scott – have thrived under the Storm system, as have many others.
What do they look for in a recruit? Long-time Storm football director Frank Ponissi says it's simple.
"If you had to pin it down to two things, it would be someone who is prepared to work really hard in everything they do, both physically in the gym and outside, and who buys into what we are about," Ponissi says.
"All the other deficiencies – well we can improve those. Whether they are physical deficiencies, football deficiencies – if they are prepared to work hard and buy in with what we are all about in this organisation, they're a chance of becoming a better player."
It's hard to assess whether a player has the right attitude and can work hard from the first meeting. There's an element of risk too, Ponissi admits.
"It's not easily measured either," he says.
"You can't sit down and do a test on work ethic and buy-in. It's just a measure of doing your homework on them, where they come from, get a gut feel when you sit down with them – whether this bloke is prepared to do it. We don't get it all right all the time.
"There's always going to be an element of risk when you sign a player. There are no guarantees. Until they walk through the front door at the time, you don't really know. We don't care who it is; there is always going to be a level of risk.
"Probably in the past we've taken punts where we think we can change (a player), and we haven't. So it's a bit of that (too)."
Which players have surprised him? Ponissi nominates young winger Josh Addo-Carr.
"The first time we met Josh was before he played his first NRL game," he says.
"It would have been last year we brought him done, just to meet. He was really likable and respectful; we had a good feeling. We'd officially signed him the week before he played his Tigers debut, and his debut was the same as Suli's (Suliasi Vunivalu's) first game.
"With Josh, when you started watching him play, and you watched his post-game celebrations, you'd be thinking 'will he fit in down here'?" Ponissi laughs.
"Even some of our players were saying 'what's the go with this new bloke?', and I'd be saying, 'he'll be right.'
"He found it a culture shock – totally different to everything we do to what he'd seen. He was prepared to buy in, work hard, and got through it. He's bought in 100 per cent."
Potential Storm signings also enjoy rugby league's quiet profile in the Victorian capital. Ponissi says it's an attractive proposition.
"It's enormous," he says. "You can switch off. When you walk through the front door, you can give everything you've got."