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Why the Storm haven't signed a big-name recruit since 2006

Melbourne's succession planning has been so successful that the Storm haven't signed a representative star in demand from rival clubs since Michael Crocker in 2006.

Storm GM of football Frank Ponissi insists the club's first priority is winning the premiership each year but Melbourne use a targeted recruitment system to identify and develop talent to replace key players in future seasons.

It's not quite money-ball but the Storm use a combination of statistics and research on a player before Ponissi or coach Craig Bellamy meet with them to determine whether they would fit into a culture that has helped Melbourne to a fourth grand final in five years against Penrith on Sunday.

"Talent gets them to door and then their character gets through them the door," Ponissi said.

Jahrome Hughes was signed as a potential replacement for superstar fullback Billy Slater, Brodie Croft was earmarked to succeed Cooper Cronk in the No.7 jersey and Brandon Smith and Harry Grant are waiting in the wings to take over from Cameron Smith at hooker.

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Croft didn't work out, possibly because Cronk left for Sydney Roosters a year earlier than the Storm had anticipated, but Hughes has transitioned into the halfback role after the emergence of Ryan Papenhuyzen at fullback.

The Storm also had Scott Drinkwater as a fullback or five-eighth option but released him to North Queensland last season after it became clear that Papenhuyzen would be wearing the No.1 jersey for years to come.

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"You can't be too rigid," Ponissi said. "You have to have an ability to be flexible because players change in your system. Some develop quicker than others and some develop not to the rate you thought – and then you have the salary cap.

"In our business list management is by far the most complicated area because it is not just about talent and character, it is about combining that with the salary cap."

Melbourne's success has restricted the club from signing big-name players, with Crocker being the last representative star recruited by the Storm in 2006 from Sydney Roosters.

Brett Finch was unwanted elsewhere after being sacked by Parramatta in 2009, while Clint Newton was also looking for another chance following a mid-season exit from Newcastle in 2007.

The Storm list management committee includes Ponissi, Bellamy, CEO Dave Donaghy and recruitment manager Paul Bunn, as well as members of the club's finance team.

"It is a robust group in terms of discussion," Ponissi said. "Some of the people in that group are very much driven by analytics, stats and data whereas Craig and I are a bit old school and focus on the character of players both in recruitment and retention. Then you have your number crunchers."

Bellamy or Ponissi meet with the potential recruits before making a decision on whether to sign them.

They don't always make the right call, with Sam Kasiano being the highest-profile example of a player who didn't live up to the on-field expectations of Bellamy and Ponissi after the Storm signed him.

However, most do and Papenhuyzen is now on the cusp of State of Origin selection for NSW, while Hughes and Smith are Kiwi internationals.

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Ponissi said the stars whose positions they inherited deserved credit for helping to develop them as Slater and Cronk remain involved with the club, while Smith is yet to decide his playing future beyond the grand final.

"Billy has got his fingerprints all over Ryan Papenhuyzen's development, Cooper did a fair bit of work with Hughesy during the last pre-season and Brandon Smith trains with and works with Smitty," Ponissi said.

"Those three have got to take a lot of the recognition for the succession plan because in their own right they are outstanding coaches.

"Their genuine care for this club and imparting their knowledge on to those particular players in their positions just speaks volumes for their character."

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