Adam Blair
Big pay day

Kiwi prop Adam Blair is Melbourne Storm’s top re-signing priority on a long list of off-contract players that includes some of the club’s best young talent.

Before the 2011 season has even begun Storm football manager Frank Ponissi is fighting to re-sign up to 12 of the club’s 30 contracted players for 2012.

It looms as a major battle to keep them all with the stocks of young guns like Matt Duffie and Gareth Widdop, who are coming off moderate two-year deals, rising rapidly last season.

Storm’s 2010 player of the year, Ryan Hinchcliffe, is also looking for a new deal and could expect a raise, as could Blair, who signed his last deal as a 21-year-old and is now established as New Zealand’s vice-captain.

Ponissi conceded it would be a difficult task to keep everyone, despite the forced clean-out of talent last season courtesy of the salary cap scandal which freed up room for 2012.

But the Storm also have six players on one-year deals and the increasing value of Duffie and Widdop could make for a tight fit, with none of the off-contract players looking to leave.

“Every year is a juggle and given the amount of players we lost in 2010 we are in a much better position for next year,” Ponissi said.

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“But it will be a challenge to keep them all. That’s the aim, but the reality is a different matter.

“We’ve got a few coming off two and three-year deals. Blair is the big one. They are all high priority, but he is No. 1. Matt Duffie, Ryan Hinchcliffe, Todd Lowrie, Kevin Proctor, Chase Stanley and Gareth Widdop are some who come off this year and all our energy is going in to retaining those players.”

A big chunk of Storm’s 2012 salary cap is taken up by Cameron Smith, Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk, while the first big year for Greg Inglis’s replacement, Beau Champion, also kicks in.

Read more at the Courier Mail