Storm preparing hefty upgrade to ward off Papenhuyzen poachers

Melbourne's chequebook is at the ready with an upgraded, long-term deal for Ryan Papenhuyzen to keep salivating NRL rivals at bay.

NRL.com understands that the Storm are preparing a three-to-four year deal for one of the breakout stars of 2019, making Papenhuyzen their No.1 priority.

Melbourne officials began extension talks around the gun fullback a few weeks back and will meet once more with his agent Clinton Schifcofske in the days after Saturday's final against Canberra.

Papenhuyzen's stunning rise has seen a slew of rival clubs register their interest, with the Wests Tigers leading the way just 18 months after the Storm poached him from Concord.

But Melbourne are determined to have Papenhuyzen extended long before November 1, when rival clubs can table official offers for the 2021 season.

The Storm haven't made any official statements regarding Papenhuyzen's future.

While Papenhuyzen is currently earning under $200,000 as one of the best value for money men this season, the Storm are aware of his skyrocketing market value and are prepared to match it with a hefty pay rise.

Such has been Papenhuyzen's rise that Craig Bellamy was forced into a late-season spine reshuffle to fit him in at fullback, pushing Jahrome Hughes into the halves and bumping Brodie Croft out of Melbourne's best 17.

In turn, Croft's future at the club has been called into question, though he is also contracted for 2020 and has a mutual club-player option the following year.

Papenhuyzen's form across six games in the Storm's starting side has been undeniable.

He goes into his first finals outing with five tries from six appearances at fullback, with an average of seven tackle busts and 225 running metres to boot.