Melbourne only have to cast their minds back to last season to know that finishing first matters little in the long run after securing their second consecutive minor premiership with a 44-12 win over Newcastle on Saturday. 

In 2011 the Storm won the minor premiership only to be bundled out of the finals courtesy of a Warriors side that boasted Shaun Johnson and James Maloney in the halves, while their grand final defeat to Cronulla last season is still a constant motivator heading into the finals series.

Despite a lacklustre start to Saturday's match, Melbourne turned things on in the second half to blow the Knights off the paddock and ensure they'll finish on top of the table and book a home advantage for the first week of the finals.

Storm v Bunnies at AAMI Park! Saturday 26 August, 5.30pm. Be there!

While he was happy for everyone involved in the club, Storm skipper Cameron Smith was far from satisfied.

"A lot of effort goes into achieving a minor premiership, not only from the guys playing but the coaching staff and everyone involved in the administration side," Smith said.

"It's reward for being the most consistent over 26 rounds, but we know it's not going to mean anything next week or in three weeks time when we play our first final.

"You get into the final eight and those last four weeks, if you're the best team in those four weeks you'll be the premiers."

With the wind behind them in the first half, Melbourne were on the back foot after Jesse Bromwich was set to the sin bin and they struggled to adjust to the conditions – repeatedly turning over possession in good territory.

Smith admitted it was an area the side needed to improve on heading into the business end of the season.

"We spoke at half-time about the second 40 minutes and the win didn't determine how we wanted to play," he said.

"Our kicking options into the wind – we didn't handle that well in the first half but it was difficult conditions for both sides, there's no doubt about that.

"We've put together some good games but there have been patches where we've turned over cheap ball.

"Looking at the next few weeks leading into the finals we just can't afford to play that way."

After losing key personnel in Kevin Proctor, Blake Green, Marika Koroibete and Ben Hampton last season to rival clubs, the Storm have blooded the next generation as opposed to recruit talent.  

Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy wasn't sure if his side was "better" than the 2016 version but said the development was beginning to show in the younger crop, with Brodie Croft scoring a hat-trick at halfback against Newcastle.

"At the start of the year I was concerned with the experience we lost and we had to find guys to fill those spaces," Bellamy said.

"They've all done a tremendous job but whether they're better than last year I'm not quite sure.

"Our younger players are better. Last year is gone and next year is next year. We need to concentrate on this year."

Bellamy indicated there would be no more resting of his star players this season after Cooper Cronk was a withdrawal as a precaution due to a heavy workload earlier in the week.

This article originally appeared on NRL.com.